Complex and deeply compelling, Out-Side the Box Theatre’s As We Are presents an honest portrayal of a very dysfunctional midwestern family. Vince (Roger Nawrocki), Mallory (Rachel Caywood), and Asher (Patrick Joy) are reunited after years of estrangement to witness their father’s death and hold his funeral. Through their emotionally charged interactions, the family’s history is revealed, traumatic incidents and all.
Playwright and co-director Larry E. Blossom weaves plots and subplots into this seemingly simple premise, crafting an artful narrative that seems effortless despite being jam-packed with secrets and revelations. Admittedly, there are certain points where some polishing might be in order, but these are largely outweighed by flights of lyrical fancy elsewhere in the script. Though intolerance and gay bashings are tragically common, As We Are largely avoids cliché, particularly by denying the audience a typically happy ending (and I won’t spoil the show by elaborating.)
For a play about grieving and coming to terms with intolerance and major trauma, As We Are has elements of absolutely wicked humor. Occasionally, physical humor threatens to overwhelm the drama of a scene.
Patrick Joy, as youngest son and master manipulator Asher, excels as a source of both conflict and comic relief. Isadora Sasser is also funny and charming as Sancia, the Italian hospice nurse falsely accused of killing patriarch Big Bruce. Other memorable characters such as the outrageously bigoted Pastor Ward (played to comic effect by Ned Read) managed to give the impression of an entire conservative, midwestern town with a relatively small cast.
Roger Nawrocki as Vince and Peter Markey as Big Bruce shoulder the majority of As We Are’s emotional heft. Nawrocki’s long-suffering trauma victim paints an honest picture of the sometimes grim consequences of growing up gay in a small town while Markey delivered a strong and multifaceted performance as Big Bruce, a complex man with his own traumas and demons.
Blossom makes excellent use of ghosts and flashbacks, deftly spanning past and present, life and afterlife. He and fellow director Suzanne Knapik (who also plays the late mother Peg) create clean and clear stage pictures out of what could easily become confusing leaps in time. The directors made thoughtful use of the whole space, incorporating the audience in a large group scene and ultimately implicating us all in the small town’s intolerance.
by Larry Blossom
900 Massachusetts AVE NW
Details and tickets
As We Are touches on a number of heartbreaking themes, not all of which can be thoroughly explored within the limits of a single play. This is Out-Side the Box’s fourth production as a company and their second time at Fringe. That they’ve definitely hit their stride as a group is reflected in the actors’ excellent rapport and the community that turned out to support their opening night. I very much look forward to their future work.