The American Renaissance Theater Company is presenting a new play at Theatre 54 at the Shetler Studios. It is the 2018 Jerry Kaufman Award winner “To She Who Waits” by Bob Clyman. The subtitle “God’s Plan v. A Mother’s Love; Winner Takes All” provides a clue to the plot.
The play jumps back and forth in time and place between McCullough County and Austin, Texas. While Mr. Clyman does not fall into easy black and white portrayals of religious sects and their adherents, his sympathies are clear from the first. It will be a struggle for Meg (Carol Todd) to reclaim custody of her daughter Hannah (Lee Eden) from the father Jack (Brian Homer) and the powerful and unseen “Uncle” who leads a doomsday cult which Meg has left. She is aided by a lawyer seeking to help people escape from the cult played by Kathleen Swan who also plays two other roles.
The three leading characters are written with nuance and depth not often seen in works addressing religious cults. The playwright even allows us sympathy and concern for the cult convinced father’s dilemma, but not the larger group that has subsumed him. The dogged but flawed mother slowly and fitfully woos her daughter, but there is doubt through much of the play as to whether she will be successful. Lee Eden as the daughter is the most fully realized character and her struggles are clear and palpable. All the performers deserve kudos for their portrayals.
Special credit goes to the scenic and costume designer Joanne Conte for the clear delineation of multiple spaces in such a confined stage and director Maria Aladren for keeping the show moving and spinning with limited resources. The Shetler Studio space is very small and this play’s aspirations are very large.
Ultimately some trimming would be helpful as many plot points get pounded home and much is piled in. However, my interest never lagged, the narrative was compelling and the portrayals were sensitively handled. This is a work worth seeing and watching where it goes next. It runs through June 8, 2019.
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#ATOBTTR update – Great job, my Cincinnati Reds! You took the Cubs series, just as I hoped you would. Ahead you have a slightly expanded Pittsburgh Pirates series because the opening weekend rainout was added to Memorial Day. I have confidence you can take this series and, may I even wish, sweep! More later. Go Reds!