BWW Review: The Preciousness of Life in Beckim's NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY
People are fragile - albeit capable of so much, but at their cores live day to day in a precarious state, able to fall at any moment. We are sometimes so confused, knowing what we want but not going towards it - imaging life a certain way but not believing oneself to be deserving or capable of achieving it. Relationships happen, bringing people hope as quickly as despair can then befall them; strength is needed to then start again. We are a complex and beautiful web of emotions and failures, plus bouts of strength that make us soar. How unbelievably tragic it is to see addiction take all of that away - to see everything that a person once was destroyed by an uncontrollable need, sometimes leaving them to live with the mistakes they never meant to make.
In Nothing Gold Can Stay, Chad Beckim shows how a young woman's addiction to opioids affects not only her, but those who seek to help her. Impeded by her own doubts and insecurities, in a town where people are admired for their efforts to leave, the downward spiral of her life pulls in those who had the good intent of helping her. Relationships are pushed aside, hope is dashed and free will momentarily shines through in her attempts to get better, only to be swallowed up again by the desire for her next fix. Beckim's play is an extraordinary story of ordinary people - a family already familiar with less-than-perfect circumstances, now faced with a loved one's illness that seeks to bring down everyone with her.
Directed by Shelley Butler and now in performances at the Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre at the A.R.T/New York Theatres, Nothing Gold Can Stay is an honest and powerful portrayal of a family affected by opioid addiction. With its word premiere, it paints the picture of a single mother and her two adult children who have collectively gone through a few of life's hardships, yet remain cohesive (and still get together for family UNO night). With the fear of remaining trapped in this small town in mind and subject to the lives people wind up living there, Clay heads off to college while his girlfriend Jesse lives under his mother's wing. Addiction doesn't discriminate, nor finds itself in the lives of certain kinds of people; Jesse simply and gradually becomes trapped. This show so aptly portrays how, step by step and with excruciatingly real emotion, this family must fight to keep the ones they love in sight. It is done in a way that asks very little of the audience in terms of imagining how easily this sickness claims those we love; it is such a beautifully crafted production that brings forth so much raw emotion, it is impossible not to sit there and feel every little thing these characters are going through.
This show is a portrayal of something very real - something that continues to plague people and those who love them, but are powerless in their efforts to help. Every step taken by these characters is monumental. From Jesse's refusal to leave her hometown and join her boyfriend in college, to her uncontrollable addiction and the tensions that rise amongst everyone she loves when there is so little left of the girl they once knew. Not to spoil anything, but there is a scene towards the end when a distraught Susan asks a groveling Jesse to do something unthinkable; it is even enough to scare Tanya, whose strong exterior crumbles as she is brought to tears.
The progression from beginning to end makes for such a captivating story, and really forces you to put your own life in perspective - at least it did for me. To witness someone deteriorate while still making an effort to get her next fix allows new vision into the precariousness nature of life. Why should Tanya keep seeing her deadbeat ex-husband and father of her little girl, when she obviously knows there is little good in getting back together? Why does Susan keep letting Jesse back into her home, when she suspects the end result will be the same as always? Why do we keep finding reason to show someone love or affection, when we know it is all futile? I think it's because as human beings, we're compelled to keep on hoping for something better - to see the good in a situation that may not have any.
And it is this hope that Clay, his mother and sister, and even Jesse's brother tries to keep alive. Susan is one of my favorite characters in any play I've seen, as she reminds me of my own mom - she fights for something that means so much for her, and never loses sight of what is important. With such talented actors who spew emotion as if it were some easy thing to come across, Nothing Gold Can Stay is definitely at the top of my list of favorite plays.
Speaking of the actors, what an abundance of talent is on that stage! Mary Bacon, Micheal Richardson (not bad at all for his NY stage debut!), Peter Mark Kendall, Adrienne Rose Bengtsson and Talene Monahon round out a spectacular cast that keeps the audience riveted from start to finish. Joining them on the creative side are Jason Simms (Set Design), Whitney Locher (Costume Design), Karen Spahn (Lighting Design), Sinan Refik Zahar (Sound Design), Lindsay Kipnis (Stage Manager)/Alannah O'Hagan (Assistant SM) and Amanda Connors (Assistant Director).
Nothing Gold Can Stay will run from October 1-October 26 in the Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre at the A.R.T./New York Theatres (502 West 53rd Street). Performances are Thursday thru Sunday at 8pm, with additional shows on October 8th and 9th. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased by calling (866) 811-4111 or by clicking here.
Enjoy the show!
Photo Credit: Spencer Moses