In Carey Crim’s “Mornings After Grace,” a world premiere production from Purple Rose Theater Co., the playwright builds a story around two scenarios increasingly familiar to the baby boomer generation.
The play explores the depth of loss that occurs when a 70-year-old man, Angus, loses his wife, Grace, to an untimely drowning. A separate plot focuses on the sadness of a middle-aged man whose aging father cannot accept that his son is gay and engaged to another man.
These stories overlap as the play unfolds. In this effort, as with many of its shows, the Purple Rose Theater Co. shows a knack for injecting lightness into stories of tragedy and pain.
When we first meet Angus (Randy Mantooth), he is staggering on to the stage holding his head, groaning from a massive hangover, only to find his living room couch occupied by a still drunk Abigail, the woman he met and apparently seduced after his wife’s funeral. Oof.
Abigail (Michelle Mountain) is 63 and has been single since her husband’s tryst with a younger woman a few years back. As the story evolves, the pair is joined by Ollie (Lynch Travis), a retired professional baseball player who reports, to Angus’ surprise, that he has been Grace’s longtime best friend and confidant. Angus accuses him of having an affair with Grace, and Ollie explains that isn’t the case — because he is gay.
Meanwhile, we learn that Abigail is Ollie’s psychotherapist who is helping him cope with his father’s unwillingness to accept his male fiancé. Abigail, employs traditional deep listening and a time-honored psychotherapeutic technique, the empty chair, to elicit deep feelings from the two inarticulate male characters, neither of whom are all that good with putting feelings into words.
A raucous, rollicking plot unfolds from here. While Angus is the main focus of this play, it is eventually revealed that psychotherapist Abigail has loss issues of her own. The relationship between Angus and Abigail, which began as an alcohol induced moment of sexual vulnerability, seems to develop into a meaningful relationship. Ollie reluctantly accepts his father’s final salvo — that he’d rather rot in an assisted living center than live with his son and his son’s lover.
Mantooth, a newcomer to the Purple Rose family, charms the audience with a droll, deadpan comedic quality. Mountain’s Abigail delights as an over-empathetic everywoman of a certain age. Travis brings authenticity to the overweight retired baseball player, tactfully avoiding the stereotypical gay men mannerisms we often see in sitcoms and on the stage. The trio of actors are at the top of their game, handling complicated material exceedingly well.
“Morning After Grace”
Purple Rose Theater Co.
Through to Saturday, Dec. 17
(See web for ticket prices and times)
Purple Rose Theatre
137 Park St., Chelsea
(734) 433-7673, purplerosetheatre.org