BWW Review: THE WAVERLY GALLERY Opens Shakespeare & Company's 2019 Season with A Loud and Resounding WOW!
Pulitzer Prize finalist THE WAVERLY GALLERY by Kenneth Lonergan is a powerful story that sheds a heartrending and humorous light on the effects of senility on a family. Once a vibrant lawyer, Greenwich Village activist and family matriarch, Gladys Green has run a charming boutique art gallery on Waverly Place for decades. Now she stands to lose its tenancy, as her world shrinks through loss of memory and hearing. As told from her grandson's perspective, we watch Gladys' family struggle to cope with her fading faculties. The audience is taken on a poignant multi-generational journey that shows us how humor can come in unexpected places.
Director, Tina Packer says of THE WAVERLY GALLERY: "it is a very insightful, very funny, and very painful play. It deals with something we are all going to have to face, whether we like it or not: getting old and losing our minds." Her words are accurate, but neither hers nor mine could possibly prepare you for the overwhelmingly powerful punch this production packs or the impact it has on its audience.
Under the direction of Packer and Associate Director Michelle Joyner, the cast features Shakespeare & Company veterans: Elizabeth Aspenlieder as Ellen Fine, Gladys' Daughter; David Bertoldi as Don Bowman; David Gow as Daniel Reed, Glady's Grandson; Annette Miller as Gladys; and Michael F. Toomey as Howard Fine, Ellen's husband. The ensemble is strong as is each of their performances. The characters seem familiar to us and we are drawn into their lives and story immediately and effortlessly. Annette Miller's performance is flawless. We watch with sympathy and anguish as she diminishes before us. Elizabeth Aspenlieder is equally powerful as she struggles to hold the family together despite the unraveling fibers of its tapestry. David Gow shines brightly and connects so deeply with the audience, we feel every ounce of the generous amounts of tenderness, anger, grief and anxiety he seamlessly provides. The seemingly simple set designed by Juliana von Haubrich provides an ideal space for the action to play out in. Her use of the performance space and some relatively simple elements is both effective and inspired.
As stated early in this review, it is a challenge to convey in words the power, importance and relevance of this production. Even harder still, the impact it has on audience members. What I can and will say is that it should not be missed and, be sure to be present and attentive to the inspiring message in the closing line(s).
With Lighting Design by James W. Bilnoski, Costumes by Elizabeth Rocha, Sound by Brendan Doyle, Stage Management by J. P. Elins and the sponsorship of Jerry and Honie Berko, THE WAVERLY GALLERY is a powerful and perfect opening to Shakespeare & Company's 2019 season which is themed "The Strings of the Heart". There is no doubt audience members will feel theirs firmly and deeply tugged by this outstanding offering.
THE WAVERLY GALLERY continues through July 14 with performances Thursday through Sunday at the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre on the Shakespeare & Company campus in Lenox, Massachusetts.