By Sam Pynes
Dove, Angels Theatre Company, Tuesday September 13, 2022, 7:30 Final Dress Rehearsal
Seeing new theatre is so exciting, but it is especially thrilling to see it written and so well-produced in your own backyard. That’s right folks, brand new theatre is being produced, not just on the East and West Coast, but also, as Angel’s Executive Artistic Director Timothy Scholl put it, in a tongue-in-cheek manner, on the “Corn Coast.”
Dove, written by Lincolnite Brigid Amos, has been in development over the past several years. I am told that through the process with the Angels Playwriting Collective some 90% of the play was revised between the first reading and this premiere production. Amos is known for producing high quality original written work including another full-length play that was produced by Angels in 2018, Losing a Ring in the River. I have not met her, but I have heard that she is a joy to work with, and her attention to detail and craft is readily apparent from this work as well.
Dove is a play with a strong sense of place, with a grounded and familiar small-town Nebraska vibe, but I think anyone anywhere would feel at home in the world that these three actors create. Artfully directed by longtime blog contributor Jamie Bullins, the action of the play takes place over just a few days in the kitchen and yard of a family home in a small Nebraska town. A screen door connects the two spaces, and the story flows between them very naturally, with subtle sound and lighting cues to prompt the movement between the spaces.
This is a story of heartbreaking loss and the paths to grief and healing. As I recall, at one point a character describes the world as “chaotic and endlessly hopeful,” and it seems to me that the journey of the play is depicting grief as the process by which one comes to accept the first and reconnect with the second of the two descriptors. The emotional progression of the play was clear, especially in the first act as Effie and Grant, played by Brenna Thompson and Eric Moyer struggle to communicate their grief to each other over the loss of their 8 year old daughter, Dove, played by Hannah Tewes. Grant and Effie present their grief in different ways, with an emotional Grant questioning Effie’s stoic busyness. Magical realism enters the story as an adult Dove returns for a day to help her mother make peace with their imperfect past. Along the way they encounter the burdens of blame that they lay on eachother and themselves, and how we unintentionally play out the ways in which we have been hurt by others, in this case how Effie’s upbringing has influenced her parenting. She comes to understand more fully her need not just for grief and healing, but also forgiveness.
There are wonderful human moments in the story, such as the playful encounter that finally convinces Effie that Dove is who she claims to be, and how the first step toward healing for the characters lies in telling the story of their own experiences. There also seems to be a distinction made between action and being, as when Effie, whose prayerful habits have not brought her peace, encounters God through the quieter prayer of Eucharistic Adoration as she begins her journey of healing and visits her daughter’s grave. Grant, though absent from the scenes with Dove herself, forms the emotional backbone of this play with his vulnerable and subtle characterization. It took me a moment to recognize Moyer as the same actor who played such a cruel character in Angel’s This Mortal Life Also this past spring.
While this story may be difficult for those currently grieving, I think it will be effective for those who are near to those who are currently experiencing loss to understand some of what they are going through. Death causes us to confront all of what came before, and the strange new reality that comes afterward. If you could see a loved one again for just a day, what is it that you wished you would have said that you could say now? We are still connected to those we lose in a very real way: they are part of our past, who we are in the present, and a hope for reunification in our future.
Discussion of grief and loss is a very difficult subject, and this production approaches it in a starkly honest, but delicate way that is edifying and effective. Dove is sponsored by Mourning Hope which provides grief counseling in our community.
If you go: Dove runs September 14-18 Wed-Sat 7:30PM and Sun at 2PM. Tickets are $28 and can be reserved at https://www.liedcenter.org/event/dove.
Sam Pynes is an actor, writer, and story enthusiast. Mostly harmless. Current Managing Editor of Appearing Locally.
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