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Review: TERMINUS at Next Door At NYTW

Review: TERMINUS at Next Door At NYTW In the intimate space of Next Door at New York Theatre Workshop, it is as if the audience is witnessing Gabriel Jason Dean's play TERMINUS through the missing pane of a window that rattles and threats to shatter further with the passing of a train to Atlanta and with each emotional outburst from its talented cast of seven actors.

TERMINUS follows the lives of Eller Freeman--"Alive and kickin'."--and her bi-racial grandson, Jaybo, in the tiny town of Attapulgus, Georgia. Eller has forgotten who and where she is, dementia deteriorating her mind and sending her spiraling into a past that weaves its way into her present, destroying her relationships with what little family she has left.

The tension below the surface in TERMINUS simmers like the water in an electric kettle screaming before it boils over. Eller and Jaybo are trapped in their dilapidated house. Eller is plagued by the ghosts of a life she has worked hard to forget, and Jaybo is chained down, desperate to provide for his grandmother--bringing her hamburgers from his job at the local Golden Corral to bring her out of her spells.

Gabriel Jason Dean's writing has tapped into a southern vernacular and the eidolic world of a woman that slips between present day and the darkness of her childhood. Through the clever use of cultural references and the imminent 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Dean grounds the world of Eller and Jaybo's life and creates an anchor that holds the present as Eller's haunts create chaos only she can see.

Deirdre O'Connell (Eller) performs beautifully with an innocence and naiveté that can only come from the very old or very young--between which she shifts effortlessly--and emotion that can only make itself known through heartache. Reynaldo Piniella (Jaybo) and Vanessa R. Butler (Finch, Jaybo's love interest) provide much needed levity in a play that is focused on the consequences of altering memory and the refusal to acknowledge past horrors.

TERMINUS explores the repercussions of slavery and the willingness to forget to the past in order to create a present that is more appealing and comfortable. It asks questions about identity and legacy and attempts to give hope for a future in which the truth is set free and examined.

TERMINUS is presented by Monk Parrots at Next Door at New York Theatre Workshop and runs until March 10th. Tickets can be purchased at the NYTW box office or online. TERMINUS is approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes with no intermission.

Photo Credit: Maria Baranova

From This Author - Sarah Fitts