Birgit Huppuch & Amy Berryman in I Will Be Gone. Photo-Bill Brymer.
I Will Be Gone
By Erin Courtney
Directed by Kip Fagan
Review by Rachel White
Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Rachel White. All rights reserved
Erin Courtney’s I Will Be Gone is a dark comedy that deals with everything: mental illness, hauntings, isolation, and romance. The plot line, on the surface, feels like many a teen movie; a girl loses her mom and moves in with her eccentric aunt in a small town where she meets a boy. What makes the play unique is the author’s willingness to explore uncomfortable themes and her refusal to offer easy answers.
When Penelope loses her mother, she moves in with her aunt Josephine, to a small town that borders on a ghost town. Penelope knows all about the ghost town as she has taken a part-time job as a tour guide at the local museum. She shares the story of the town’s inhabitants with passing visitors. The ghost town is an interesting metaphor as there are only seven characters in this play, and you wonder sometimes if they are the only people left in the town. There is little mention of outsiders. The emptiness of the town reflects the sense of loss the characters must feel.
Amy Berryman plays Penelope with a deadpan mournfulness that belies a hungry curiosity. She seems to take everything in, the town, the people, and all of the events. She is rebellious but there is nothing really to rebel against. Her aunt Josephine (Birgit Huppuch), although loving, has her own issues to deal with and parenting in any strict sense seems off the table. Penelope has developed a relationship with the sweet, slightly dopey Elliott, who later admits that he is fresh out of Narcotics Anonymous. The two of them explore sexuality and private pain together. There is a hint that Elliott relapses but this darker aspect of his character is only touched on and never fully explored.
The characters often gather at the Mayor Liam’s (Alex Moggridge) office, where a schizophrenic homeless man named Jim (Triney Sandoval) wanders the stage shouting nonsense that nears the prophetic and even poetic. Jim is an important fixture in the town and why this is so is revealed gradually. Hernando Caicedo plays Jim’s younger self, and Calciedo’s version is a sensitive, smart, but terribly normal teenager, and this makes knowing his fate all the more poignant.
There were some technical delays in the play that abruptly interrupted the action. The actors and designers do such nice work creating the world that these interruptions felt especially jarring.
This is a play about ghosts, schizophrenia, parties and drunkenness, and people having sex with people that they shouldn’t have sex with; there is an unexpectedly funny energy that runs through the dialogue, and through the complex situations, relationships and losses that keeps the story fresh.
I Will Be Gone
March 15-April 12, 2015
Part of The 39th Annual Humana Festival of New American Plays
Actors Theatre of Louisville
316 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
[box_light]Rachel White received her MFA in playwriting from the New School for Drama, and her BA in English and Dramatic from Centre College. Her plays have been produced in New York at The New School, the Midtown International Theatre Festival and the American Globe Theater, in Los Angeles at Moving Arts Productions and the Ensemble Studio Theatre-LA. In Louisville, she has had productions at the Slant Culture Theatre Festival, the Tim Faulkner Gallery, and Finnigan Productions. She is a recipient of the Litwin Foundation Fellowship in Playwriting, and was recently a semi-finalist in the Labute New Theater Festival. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, and the Playwrights Gallery in New York.[/box_light]