Rachel White and Jeremy Sapp in The Gardeners. 
Photo:  Margaret Archambeault, Tim Faulkner Gallery.
The Gardeners

Written by Rachel White 

Directed by Brian Hinds

Reviewed by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2013, Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

In a raw, aged, garage space off the courtyard of The Tim Faulkner Gallery complex, a small group of free-lance players produced a tidy staging of Rachel White’s one-act play The Gardeners. The rough textures of the unorthodox venue might seem off-putting, but the environment served to support the material and provide meaningful contrast to the poetical language featured in the text.

The spare narrative carries little plot, and is structured as a series of scenes involving a family – father, mother and teenage daughter – who are so self-absorbed and inextricably linked to electronic devices for any meaningful communication as to be tragic figures lacking in empathy. In their garden are two robots programmed to tend the living plants, in particular, thriving tomato vines vividly made manifest in Patrick White’s set design. The human characters are preoccupied with shallow, materialistic business and social interactions, while the robots are focused entirely on nurturing life. The point is not a subtle one, yet it is subtly dramatized in monologues from the robots that are beautifully articulated in language that is graceful and compassionate.

Director Brian Hinds leads his cast through smart, economical paces. Karina Strange, Joseph Hatfield and Jenni Cochran essay the humans with appropriate edge and selfishness; you will not like these people much, and the robots are sensitively measured for a lack of guile but a surprising degree of humanity by Jeremy Sapp and author Rachel White.

It seems an opportunity opening up to explore the merging of theatre and visual art. Of course, most theatre incorporates visual design in sets and costumes. But Patrick White’s work here is singular and expressive in offbeat and muscular ways that point to a potential for greater collaboration between writers, actors, painters and sculptors. Watch this space.

The Gardeners

May 18 & 25, 2013

Tim Faulkner Gallery

943 Franklin Street

Louisville, KY 40206