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BWW Reviews: THE QUALITY OF LIFE Rouses Pure, Heartfelt Emotion in Richmond

There is a gripping and heartfelt master class in acting on dramatic display at HATTheatre through February 16.

The four veteran performers in Jane Anderson's compelling drama, THE QUALITY OF LIFE, unpack and deliver such raw emotion that audience members feel as if they are privileged visitors peeking into the lives of four individuals who are struggling with the acceptance of death and loss, rather than spectators of a play.

Bill and Dinah, brought to life with precision by Scott Melton and Kerrigan Webb Sullivan, are Midwesterners dealing with the grief of losing their only daughter to a grisly murder. The pair holds on to their Christianity and their relationship with God because that's all they have left after so many years of marriage. Their passionate and free-spirited cousins, Neil and Jeannette, played to near perfection by Michael Hawke and Jacqueline Jones, deal with tragedy differently when confronted with the loss of their home, a beloved pet and Neil's inevitable death.

As Dinah seemingly asks forgiveness for her crying, explaining, "It comes and goes like hiccups," so we must accept the quality of Anderson's writing. However, under the careful direction of Deejay Gray, the quartet delivers a tour de force performance that stirs even the most stoic souls in the audience.

The creative set design by Gray, Amber Davis and Vickie Scallion is rustic and showcases random belongings, the little things that survived a devastating tragedy. These surviving items, which seem minimal in material value, allow the audience to focus on what is truly important to Neil and Jeannette-each other. Michael Jarett's light design resorts to dimly lit lanterns and effectively captures the darkness bottled inside each individual on stage.

Meticulously holding all his emotion inside, Scott Melton is calm and inimitably closed off as the straight shooting spouse, and reaches his peak during the second act in an unwavering confrontation that relentlessly releases the pent up pain and anger he has bottled. As the object of his negligence, Kerry Webb Sullivan shines with a heartbreaking performance.

Michael Hawke delicately commands the stage as the frail and terminal Neil. His gut wrenching performance in the final moments is both compelling and compassionate. Jacqueline Jones is masterful as Jeanette, displaying undying love for her terminal husband, before the revelation of her own disturbing plans.

THE QUALITY OF LIFE puts real faces on controversial societal issues and religious philosophical systems and forces its characters to the brink.

With only one weekend left, make plans to see this "quality" production, but be sure to bring a few tissues.

Photo Credit: Vickie Scallion

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From This Author Jeremy Bustin