BWW Review: ESCAPED ALONE and COME AND GO at The Gamm
The Gamm is currently showing two short plays back-to-back, with all female casts. ESCAPED ALONE by Caryl Churchill (New England Premiere) is a tight one-act that raises far more questions than it answers. COME AND GO by Samuel Beckett is so brief it almost feels like it's over before it begins, but is strangely haunting. Overall, it's a combination of works that are very well-acted, but also feel somewhat jarring in a way that doesn't quite pay off.
ESCAPED ALONE takes us to the backyard of Sally (Karen McDonald). It's a very English setting with lush green grass set in front of an semi-translucent scrim with a mossy old stone building screened onto it. Sally is there with her two friends Vi (Marya Lowry) and Lena (Carol Drewes), and they are quickly joined by Mrs. Jarrett (Debra Wise). Conversations meander among mundane, bizarre and increasingly shocking revelations. The horrific, the absurd and the pedestrian statements are all delivered in a matter-of-fact and sometimes almost sing-song cadence. The audience seemed at times like they were laughing almost involuntarily and felt a little strange about it, even at lines that are intended to be funny. Each woman has her own issues--Lena is frequently afraid to leave the house; Sally has a crippling fear of cats, and Vi hasn't felt comfortable in a kitchen for years due to an incident that occured in one. Mrs. Jarrett frequently interrupts the garden party with vivid descriptions of post-apocalyptic societal breakdowns.
Mrs. Jarrett's monologues are alarming and hilarious, but also incredibly perplexing. Is she predicting the future? Have these things already happened? Where in space and time is this innocuous garden we've all spent so much time in, and if the world outside is devolving into a foodless, flooded, burning chasm, why don't these women talk about that instead of cats?
Despite the overwhelm of disjointed information being delivered, the cast is 100% solid and completely committed to their roles. In three Gamm debts, Karen McDonald, Debra Wise and Carol Drewes have cemented themselves as skilled and charismatic actors who have energy far beyond their years. Hopefully they will come back for future productions. Marya Lowe, previously in The Gamm's stunning Hedda Gabler from 2014, brings a playful energy to her role, in contrast to the more subdued Mrs. Jarrett and Lena. Overall, the friendship among these women feels so sincere and genuine, that it's fun to be around them.
COME AND GO is much more subtle. It takes place on a bench set behind the scrim of the building near Sally's garden, and includes three female friends, each wearing a different colored trench coat. To describe the plot is to basically give everything away, but this is a very quiet story of secrets and long friendships culminating in a lovely tableau of three loyal friends hand-in-hand. The only frustration with this piece is that since it's set behind the scrim, it's somewhat rather hard to watch. It has to be lighted in such a way that you can look through to see the women on the bench, but that means the lights are pointed at the audience and the print on the scrim makes the whole scene somewhat murky.
The women in these plays are truly phenomenal performers, and it's a delight to be able to watch them work. While the plays themselves are challenging and head-scratching at times, the final product is satisfying and unique.
Escaped Alone and Come and Go run now-March 17 at The Gamm Theatre, 1245 Jefferson Blvd., Warwick, RI. Tickets are $44, $52 and $60 Tickets: 401-723-4266 or gammtheatre.org.