BWW Reviews: A PERMANENT IMAGE, An Exquisite Depiction of Familial Estrangement and Ultimate Control
Rogue Machine produces a stunning mounting of the West Coast premiere of A Permanent Image. Playwright Samuel D. Hunter has created a stripped down, no-nonsense portrait of a family separated by distance, both emotional and physical, and the methods the parents will attempt to manipulate their destinies.
John Perrin Flynn expertly directs his amazingly talented cast of three (well, four, if you count Mark L. Taylor, as the deceased Martin, seen only via video). Nicholas Santiago's video projection designs deserve top billing here as their clever, inventive use of home movies initially projected onto the sofa make you believe Martin's actually sitting on the sofa. And, not to spoil the ending, projections used at the finale - so perfect!
Martin's widow Carol has asked her two adult children to return home for Martin's funeral. His sudden demise seem inexplicable to the kids: Bo, an award-winning photojournalist and Ally, a successful transportation company owner. Carol's non-specifics of Martin's death initially go unchallenged by the returning siblings as being maybe too soon to be probed. Coupled with the nonsensical way Carol's acting, Bo and Ally fear their mom's completely lost her mind. When, after a few drinks, Carol reveals the details of Martin's passing and her own plans to follow suit, Bo and Ally realize the horror of what has actually happened.
Anne Gee Byrd's simply spot-on marvelous as Carol, the grief-stricken widow. Her wide-eyed rantings and playful ravings with, and at, her children, at more times than not, seem more lucid and logical than Bo's and Ally's apparent saneness. Ned Mochel as Bo and Tracie Lockwood as Ally readily exhibit the brother-sister, love-hate tight bond they still have for each other after all these years living their own grown-up lives. Mochel and Lockwood comfortably revert to their adolescent selves roughhousing, bickering and making up --all so very realistic; all so heart-warming.
Hunter's well-crafted, intricate script slowly discloses integral facts as needed via compliments, insults and slips of tongues; much like peeling layers of an onion until one finally reaches its core. Hunter deftly modulates the various stages of blame, guilt and denial in dealing with Martin's passing. Hunter's convincing reasonings for self-control mortality coming through Byrd's skilled lips make so much sense, one has to stop and debate the validity versus the insanity of this ultimate act. Major food for thought. And isn't that what good, no great, theatre's for? Rogue Machine's production of A Permanent Image IS great theatre!