Rena Cherry Brown, Brian Hinds, Neil Brewer, & Katherine Martin. Photo: Bunbury Theatre
By David Rabe
Directed by Steve Woodring and Skylar Vest
A review by Jennifer Starr
Entire contents are copyright © 2020 by Jennifer Starr. All rights reserved.
Death and dying are part of life. The ways people deal with a death in their immediate family are telling. Do we not talk about death and avoid those feelings or do we plan for the inevitable by sharing our discomforts about the loss and provide closure for anything that may be left unsaid? Are those sticking points in our relationships more of a burden that tax our decaying body and mind than is the loss of mobility, organs, and thoughts due to time, old age, or disease?
David Rabe’s Visiting Edna is a play that deals with an elderly woman, played by a delightful Rena Cherry Brown, riddled with disease and coming to terms with her own impending death and the relationship she has with her adult son, Andrew, played thoughtfully by Brian Hinds. He makes a cross-country trip to visit with her, but is it out of guilt or responsibility? We learn about Edna and Andrew’s relationship over time aided by unconventional characters that come to life in Edna’s dwelling. Ms. Brown and Mr. Hinds are always in the moment and play these two family members with such wonderful care that I teared up many times thinking about my own relationship with my aging parents.
The play would be even more depressing if it were not for the personified characters of Television and Cancer. Katherine Martin, who is a lesson in acting each time I see her work, portrays Television, an inescapable aspect of modern life. Television is an ever-present element in our homes that helps us to NOT deal with life. Ms. Martin provides a witty, semi-mechanical, multi-accented commercial and movie-filled vitality for Edna and Andrew to help them cope with feelings and the forced togetherness in the small apartment. In contrast to Television, Cancer, an invasive menace, played by a devilish Neil Brewer, gives us insight to not only a disease but also the downward spiral of despair that it represents in our lives. Is Cancer an unwelcome visitor? Or is Cancer the inability to deal with major life events with care, compassion, and true understanding? The other spirit-filled character visiting Edna, played by skilled impersonator Matt Orme, provided a haunting and hilarious special moment in the show.
Other elements in this production helped seal the escape into Edna’s life. The set, designed by Tom Tutino, was well-conceived and full of details for apartment living. Perfect props, appliances, working sinks, and specials on lights gave it a realistic, homey atmosphere. Two specific props conceived by the playwright helped tell the story of time standing still as well as the fleeting progression of time on our organic lives. Edna’s costumes were colorful and reflected her clinging to life with a joyous spirit. The choice of classical pre-show and intermission music added to the mood of reflection on a long life. The lighting and sound were vital parts to the back-story of Edna and Andrew’s earlier lives. The storms of our life and actual thunderstorms segued into calm, moonlit comfort. I would have appreciated lightning effects to emphasize the scariness of the storms coming in the windows.
This show reminds me of my own relationship with my aging parents. I stay busy so I do not have to see them decline. It is hard to witness. This play makes me feel sad and guilty about that, but it also helps me to see that I am not alone in feeling this way. Visiting Edna strikes at some painful universal truths. The show has a slow pace that helps send the message that we may have all the time in the world, but it is fleeting nonetheless. Perhaps those moments in which we cling to life, not wanting it to ever end and hanging on to our loved ones every word, allow us to experience the thoughts and emotions of what ought not to remain unsaid.
Featuring Rena Cherry Brown, Brian Hinds, Katherine Martin, Neil Brewer, and Matt Orme
February 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, & 22 @ 7:30 pm
February 9, 16, & 23 @ 2:00 pm
Henry Clay Theatre
604 South Third Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Jennifer Starr is an LA (Louisville Area) performer and director that has been involved with Louisville Community Theatre for 11 years. She has a BA in Theatre from EKU and serves on the board of directors for The Mind’s Eye Theatre Company.
2020 Arts-Louisville/Broadway World Theatre Award Sponsorship provided by