BWW Review: THE TIN WOMAN at Centre Stage is Funny, Insightful, and Quietly Beautiful
You'll be forgiven if you read a description of The Tin Woman, opening this week at Greenville, SC's Centre Stage, and think it will be little more than (pardon the phrase) heartwarming.
In fact, the show is funny, insightful, and quietly beautiful.
And, okay, yes, maybe just a little bit heartwarming.
The play introduces us to Joy (Sara Tolson), a heart-transplant recipient with a fierce sense of humor and a curious detachment from her own situation. Gifted with new life, she finds herself less than grateful. She also may be suffering from survivor's guilt. After all, she's only alive because some unknown person died, leaving her with that person's heart and a lot of self-doubt.
"I wish there was something remarkable about me," she laments.
In an attempt to assuage her guilt, Joy sends a card to her heart donor's family, offering to meet them if they're up to it. As it turns out, the family is interested in meeting her - well, most of them are.
With plenty of humor and, yes, heart, Sean Grennan's script celebrates mysterious connections, the healing power of family, and the great circle of life. And in these bitterly partisan times, a reminder that strangers can still have profound human connections is both welcome and comforting.
Sara Tolson leads the show with a strong performance as the emotionally numb Joy. The character describes herself as having never been much of a hugger, and Tolson captures the conflict simmering beneath Joy's cold façade. She's well-supported by Laura Sykes as Joy's best friend, Darla. Sykes is loose and funny as Darla and makes a perfect catalyst for Joy's journey.
Circling through the proceedings is another figure, the heart donor himself, Jack. Chris Cashon plays the young man whose premature death gave Joy added life. The role of Jack is primarily one of reaction, and Cashon is warm and empathetic in the role. We also see, in memory, a few key scenes in Jack's life, and Cashon immediately shows us what made Jack's loss such a devastating blow.
As important as Joy's journey is, Jack's family also plays a central role in the play. We meet Joy and Jack against the backdrop of these other lives, this family drama playing out in sometimes overlapping scenes. Leslie Vicary is wonderfully real as Alice, Jack's grieving mother. Eminently practical and level-headed, Alice anchors her own family as she deals with her flaky but well-meaning daughter (Chelsea Street) and her newly alcoholic husband (Warren Mowry). Street is simply hilarious, especially in the second act, when her character unleashes her thoughts about the river of time. Mowry, too, really shines in act two when his character finally navigates his own emotional waters. It's a powerful performance in a powerful play.
Director Megan McNerney Azar leads this stellar cast in a terrific balance of naturalistic emotion and resonance with a somewhat stylized/mystical setting. Jack, the heart donor, walks around and almost coducts the entire show, watching, reacting and somehow affecting the lives of the people he left behind as he completes his own journey of redemption and purpose. Azar's direction allows us to fully embrace the humor along with the pathos.
Through love and laughter, The Tin Woman reminds us that kindness and compassion remain at the heart of humanity, and that we are all, mysteriously, connected.
The Tin Woman runs June 19-30 at Centre Stage, 501 River St., Greenville, SC.
Centre Stage is partnering with their show sponsor, Donate Life SC, to also promote awareness of organ donation throughout the run of the show. The cast has met with organ donation recipients to gain knowledge about the process and the emotional toll it takes on the organ recipient and the families of the organ donors. The cast of The Tin Woman and representatives from Donate Life SC will host post-show talkbacks after the performances on June 21, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29, and 30. Audience members are encouraged to stay after and discuss the performance as well as learn about organ donation.
Tickets for The Tin Woman are $30, $25, $15. Student rush tickets are available for $15 with school ID one hour before the show (based on availability), one ticket per ID. Ticketing fees are applied to ALL purchases. Shows run Tuesday through Sunday and all seats are reserved.
For reservations and additional information call the box office at 864-233-6733 or visit centrestage.org.
Photo credit: Escobar Photography