Don’t let the unsettling title scare you away. Yes, it’s direct and upfront but the characterizations build and the interactions usher us into precious reflections on life.
On the surface, Melody and Craig are newly marrieds still easing into and adjusting to the move from Colorado to Connecticut for his once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity.
Ruthie Rado gives Melody a comfortable, easygoing manner as Melody deals with the emotional roller coaster of feeling out of place, out of sorts and ill at ease now that the boxes are unpacked and she’s tired of trying to figure out what to do with her life. She looks adoringly at her husband who comes and goes with suitcases in hand with traces of wonder and excitement, confusion, frustration and even flickers of irritation as she compares his bustle and purpose to her ennui.
The early scenes show her dependence in relying on Craig, played nicely by Nick Duckworth, as her anchor. He enters asking what she did all day and hints that she’s well suited for an administrative office job. That just sets up more insinuations that pick at her self-worth. Their life plans obviously are not meeting expectations and their back and forth banter is just shy of making you wonder how these two souls merged in the first place. Add the stress of trying to make a good impression on his visiting mom Hope (Emily Morrison) who looks around with expressions of mild displeasure and the interactions couldn’t be more awkward.
Along the way, co-worker assistant Brad, played cheerfully by Lansing O’Leary, is a sweet lug of a guy with ambition-challenges of his own, drops by to retrieve an item for work. Melody and Brad get along comfortably like old chums. Brad could easily be the guy next door who becomes the best friend and then more. He’s got the shoulders to cry and rely on if and when needed.
And then it happens. Melody hears the news about the plane crash while watching television. The second half of the play pivots with this sudden change in everyone’s relationships. Melody is in no condition to make decisions, and stares into space in disbelief. Hope is ramrod straight as she deals with the most difficult tasks in life, making final arrangements for her only child having recently been widowed herself.
Be a Good Little Widow
closes August 5, 2018
Details and tickets
The second half of the play deals with the journey of both women as they cope with their new realities. There’s no wailing through the steps– denial, anger, acceptance etc.– the script truncates the traditional psychological flow into a new age millennial minute while allowing the pain to be so real you can feel and taste it.
Melody found her way to the crash site to get as close as she could to her husband’s final moments and the script spares no details for what she saw. Playwright Bekah Brunstetter of “This is Us” fame and pedigree skillfully keeps the play from pitching into despair and director Christopher Goodrich guides the emotional moments with tenderness and care. As in the television series, the flashbacks are notoriously effective in adding poignant insight about the characters, and through them, with Hope‘s softening comfort, Melody finds strength she didn’t know she had.
The stage is nestled comfortably on the second floor of the ample venue and is well designed by Michael Cherry with a table and chairs front and center and a two-seated sofa to the right. Lighting by Andrew Dodge softens for alternate realities and glares with bright intensity for unblinking clarity.
Dealing with the loss of loved ones, colleagues and friends happens to all of us. Those of us left behind to cherish memories and shuffle through the day-to-day of next steps can find comfort, solace, and even allow ourselves to have a chuckle or two between the tears.
Be a Good Little Widow by Bekah Brunstetter . Directed by Christopher Goodrich . Cast: Nick Duckworth, Emily Morrison, Lansing O’Leary, Ruthie Rado . Set Design— Michael Cherry . Lighting Design— Andrew Dodge . Sound Design—Matthew Mills . Costume Design— Debra Klein . Props Design & Set Dressing— John Barbee . Production Manager—Shayla Sowers . Stage Manager— Jessica Lucey . Produced by Unexpected Stage . Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson.