(Clockwise) Susan McNeese Lynch, Phil Lynch, Kim Butterweck, Rose Wilson, & Matthew Dalton Lynch

What Do We Need To Talk About 

By Richard Nelson
Directed by Scout Larkin Link

A review by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2021 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

Once video conferencing was a novelty reserved for business meetings and holiday visits with family thousands of miles away. Now, in the space of a few months, we have all become accustomed to seeing each other in small frames on our laptop or cell phone. We can see and hear but not smell, touch, or sense each other.

Writers are now exploring this digital interaction and how it reflects our current state of affairs. In What Do We Need To Talk About, Richard Nelson paints a family conference that balances the mundane with the imperative to some good effect.

In Reinbeck, a town in upstate New York, Barbara Apple (Susan McNeese Lynch) is at home now after nearly succumbing to COVID in the hospital. Her brother Richard (Phil Lynch) has moved in to care for her and they have opened a video link with siblings Jane (Rose Wilson) and Marion (Kim Butterweck) while Jane has her boyfriend Tim (Matthew Dalton Lynch) on his own screen, quarantined in the guest room after he tested positive for the virus. The topic of conversation begins with the inevitable health updates but over the course of an hour delves into some deeper conflicts and surprising announcements. Jane’s obsessive quarantine enforcement seems a tad neurotic, although if we understand the time to be earlier in the pandemic, it makes more sense.

In truth, these issues are low-key and in many ways downright ordinary but the tight one-act structure keeps it from running out of gas. I think Nelson deliberately keeps things scaled down to an easily identifiable level so we can readily connect with the Apple family and their pandemic unease. These characters lack the knowledge and understanding that would come after 11 months in the struggle, that the escalating sense of fatigue is actually suspended grief over the loss of community.

However on point it feels for our recent experience, material like this may date itself rapidly, and the limitations of the perspective won’t help its shelf life, but theatre should speak to the moment, and a play this immediate is welcome.

Many virtual productions fight the limitations of the Zoom format, but setting the action in Zoom removes that hurdle, and the pace reflects the all-too-common virtual experience we have all been having. The performances are all laid back and comfortable although punctuated by small instances of tension. It is no surprise that The Family Lynch are such pros, and Ms. Butterweck injects an emphatic note of maternal concern, while Rose Wilson, a new face to this reviewer, threads the needle between those two energies with alacrity. She also holds her screen against the understated presence of Pansy, a sleepy canine companion who seems unimpressed by her screen debut. 

The production effectively uses original still images and music that not only bridge chapters but extend and enrich the story. It gives this a polish that is a challenge in Zoom.

What Do We Need To Talk About is one in a series by Nelson called The Apple Plays, so it may be that we are lacking some context in our relationship with these characters. But if this script in and of itself hews closer to mundane than extraordinary, perhaps it recognizes our desperate need for normalcy, a theme that may define most of the plays written about 2020.

Featuring Kim Butterweck, Matthew Dalton Lynch, Phil Lynch, Susan McNeese Lynch, & Pansy

What Do We Need To Talk About 

February 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, & 21. 

Tickets are $20 and the play is available for viewing for 48 hours after purchase. 

For more information and tickets, go to evetheatrecompany.com. 

Eve Theatre Company &
Fledgling Theatre Company

Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.