|Dueling sibs: Mike Ryan and Julie James|
For the fourth production of its Tenth Anniversary season, Jewel Theatre Company has plucked out a plum. Santa Cruz's own Kate Hawley bestows a gift on JTC and its lucky patrons with her new play, Complications From A Fall. This is the World Premiere of Hawley's play, a witty, often breezy comedy about a serious subject—aging parents, and the grown children reluctantly deputized to care for them.
The play has everything to recommend it to theatre companies large and small. It can be staged on a single set (with a few inventive flourishes, like those dreamed up for the JTC production by director Paul Whitworth). The cast is small, consisting of four terrific acting parts. And the subject matter is universal—parent-child relationships, sibling friction, family secrets, and memories, lost and found. Hawley skillfully mines this material for life-sized humor, without resorting to farce, or cheapening the drama of the situation.
An agitated Helen (Julie James), a spinster-ish university professor, is fuming in the house of her elderly, bedridden mother. She's awaiting the arrival of her younger brother, Teddy (Mike Ryan), a scruffy musician in an obscure rock band that's perpetually on the road. Helen has been their mother's caretaker since the older woman took a fall awhile back, but she has a scholarly conference to attend so Teddy has to come home for a few days to help out.
Teddy faces his first hurdle when his mother (infuriating, yet beguiling Nada Rowand) wakes up; she recognizes him as her beloved son, but keeps calling for the previous hired caregiver, Lucy. His sister has told Teddy she let Lucy go because pieces of their mother's jewelry kept disappearing, but Mom becomes so distressed, Teddy calls in Lucy (an engaging Audrey Rumsby) for back-up.
Everything works, from B. Modern's effective costumes and Kate Edmunds’ smart set design (its walls covered with the handwritten script of old letters), to the wartime-era pop songs that play between scenes in this thoughtful and entertaining production. (Read more)