BWW Review: CURVE OF DEPARTURE More Than Satisfies at Studio Theatre
In 2014, Studio Theatre commissioned Rachel Bonds to write The Wolfe Twins. Upon seeing that play, I was struck by the way she subtlety explored familial bonds, assuring the audience began to understand the complexities of the relationship layer by layer. In her latest play, Curve of Departure, Ms. Bonds displays a similar knack for exploring humanity and how we interact with those closest to us in the most realistic of ways. Her skillful writing, excellent performances by the four-member cast, and clever design work, allow the audience to have what I would deem the most satisfying dramatic experience thus far this season in our local area.
Linda (Ora Jones) and Rudy (Peter Van Wagner) are settling in to their hotel room in Santa Fe, New Mexico with all of its southwestern flair (captured perfectly by set designer Lauren Helpern). It's unclear their relationship at first, although there's definitely a family bond. The interaction is so easy and informal. Two others join them - Linda's son Felix (Justin Weaks) and his boyfriend Jackson (Sebastian Arboleda). It turns out that they're all in town for Cyrus' funeral. Cyrus is Linda's ex-husband, Felix's father, and Rudy's son. They all have complex feelings toward Cyrus who abandoned them for a new life, but at least initially, polite conversation is the name of the game. Polite conversation gives way to emotionally-charged discussions. Each brings their own baggage (figuratively speaking) to the hotel room.
Rudy is struggling with medical issues, including loss of memory. Linda is still trying to figure out the best way forward. She wants to care for Rudy - even offering to retire early from teaching to do so - but Rudy has his own ideas. Felix and Jackson are dealing with their own drama back in California. As time goes on and the group gets even more tired, secrets about Rudy's desires for the "next part" of his life are revealed, as well as the real reason Jackson had to take a phone call outside of the room. Emotions, which previously were hidden, explode in the tight confines of the hotel room. At sunrise, the group moves - one by one - to the sun-filled balcony (well-lit by Scott Zielinski). It's a new day.
Successful performance of this deceptively challenging script requires a director with a subtle hand, and Mike Donahue certainly has that. It also requires the cast to truly understand their characters and have the skill and commitment to reveal more about them as the play goes on - careful not to do too much at once, or too soon. Each of the four incredible actors has this skill - and at equal level at that. Adept with the silent moments (there are many pauses built into the script), the quiet ones, the standard/everyday ones, they deliver beautifully rich, human performances that are grounded in a particular time and space.
All told, Curve of Departure is an eighty-minute emotional rollercoaster that packs more of a punch than any play I've seen this season.
Running Time: 80 minutes with no intermission.
CURVE OF DEPARTURE runs at Studio Theatre - 1501 14th Street, NW in Washington, DC - through January 7, 2018. For tickets, call the box office at 202-332-3300 or purchase them online.