BWW Review: THE OUTGOING TIDE at Theatreworks

BWW Review: THE OUTGOING TIDE at TheatreworksI wasn't so sure about Bruce Graham's THE OUTGOING TIDE, which opened this weekend at Theatreworks under the direction of S.A. Weakley. I noticed a tag line which advertised a serious, even dark, tale of a family stuck in a summer house on Chesapeake Bay. That sounded a bit heavy for a Friday night, but this fine production from Cloud 9 Memphis proved a real treat.

OUTGOING TIDE relies on a mere three characters in a single set, with nary a special effect (except for seagulls). But the vivid script and the lively acting are captivating. The story features the elderly Gunner and his loyal wife Peg, played by the amazing couple Jim and Jo Lynne Palmer. Their adult son Jack (Marques W. Brown) has come for a visit. From the opening scene, as father and son cast pebbles into the ocean, these talented actors command attention.

Yes, this family has a problem, and it's not good. Gunner isn't doing so well. His health is failing and he knows it, sometimes. Peg has come to her wits' end trying to help. And Jack is in the middle trying to make sense of it all while dealing with his own stuff. Hint, there's a reason Jack's wife and kids don't join him on this visit.BWW Review: THE OUTGOING TIDE at Theatreworks

All this could be rather somber, except Gunner won't have it. He's in turn funny, angry, tender, and incorrigible. Peg is endearing, tough, and afraid. They argue, make up, argue, and make up again. They love but never hate as they enjoy the warm memories of their youth, and fight about their uncertain future. Jack, the dutiful, troubled son, is the straight man here, by comparison. But he excels at that too.

So what to do with Gunner? He's clearly ill, needs help. The end is in sight and he can see it. But the old guy is facing it with open eyes and a stout heart. A man of action, Gunner knows what to do---he hatches a plan. Peg and Jack are aghast. Or can they learn to accept it? Throw in a little insurance money and a bottle of good Irish whiskey and there's suspense enough to drive the story.

How all this works out, or doesn't, keeps OUTGOING TIDE interesting. The script meandered a bit for me in Act II where the focus turns to the son and his problems, which are mostly internal, their origins off-stage. But the cast handle this efficiently, and the story never strays far. The poignant balance of the deadly serious with the sweetly amusing brought tears and chuckles from the audience. The set effectively conjured scenes at the beach and at Peg's kitchen table, yet was simple enough to fix attention on the drama. Such simplicity is a challenge for any production. This excellent play from Cloud 9 (whose creative mission is to share the stories of older Americans), meets this challenge admirably.

BWW Review: THE OUTGOING TIDE at TheatreworksTHE OUTGOING TIDE will be performed Friday & Saturday nights at 8:00 through July 2 at Theatreworks, 2085 Monroe Ave, Memphis, TN 38104. Tickets, available at the door, are $15.00 Adults, $10.00 for Seniors & Students.

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