The grieving family who donates their son’s heart after he dies in an accident. And an absorbing story about crushing loss, guilt, fear of vulnerability, and taking the hard, necessary steps to go forward.
“The Tin Woman” by Sean Grennan, the latest production by Playcrafters Theatre Company held in the Community Room of the Boys & Girls Club of the Bellport Area, is a moving, hopeful story. The actors are terrific in their roles as their characters portray anger, humor, despair, tenderness, and the courage to change.
The premise centers around Joy (Amanda Griemsmann), a cynical, prickly 30-year-old, who admits she was ready to die, before a heart donor is found. She greets us on the outset on a gurney, hooked up to fluids as a young man wordlessly hovers around her. That’s Jack (Christopher Wadolowski), the young man who has passed on. And whose heart she has. While still here on earth, he’s seen in a flashback asking for the cinnamon shaker where Joy is seated at a coffee café. The interaction is pretty funny. Jack is quirky, but charming. He wants to be a professional photographer and asks to take Joy’s photo with her friend, Darla (Erica Lopez). Wow, that Joy, she’s pretty cynical and beastly. Darla even tells her to lighten up, and he eventually snaps away.
It’s not easy to portray a character who’s dead during most of the performance, but Wadolowski’s Jack is transcendent in his thoughtful, tender movements, subtle facial expressions, and obvious concern for all these people he’s been pitched in the middle of.
Jack’s parents, Hank (Michael Cerevella) and Alice (Jacquie Kahn), sit on a bench at the cemetery after Jack’s funeral, clearly devastated. Hank is thrashing, noting the fuss with people bringing food over: “We’ve got enough cupcakes to get diabetes.” Alice recognizes the food offerings as kindness, coaxing him off his rant. She’s his ballast, trying to temper his rage while managing her own.
How the main characters take their steps to heal is the crux of the story. Joy questions why she’s still alive and starts spiraling down when Darla urges her to reach out to the donor family. (You would want an upbeat, funny best friend like Darla.) Alice, Jack’s mom, is struggling with the Herculean task of keeping her family together. Her Hank is rude, sarcastic, argumentative and drinking more. Sammy, Jack’s sister (Nikki Moran), provides a lot of the comic relief. She’s a blogger, a sweet woman, a teacher of young kids, who pours out her emotions online and in person, but is also an upbeat believer that life is a circle.
Joy’s letter to the family opens up possibilities. And the interaction with Joy visiting the home of Alice and Hank with Sammy, lifts off such powerful scenes, the audience was literally holding their breath. The heat from Hank’s rage is searing, and Alice’s pain and her angry torrent back at her husband is equal in its brutal honesty, but also hope.
Jack’s heartbreaking interaction where he speaks, rejecting his father’s offer to join the family business before he died, is finally revealed. And the transformation of Joy, slowly shedding her armor, reaching out to heal everyone, including herself, in one simple but important gesture, is stunningly beautiful.
A lot of emotional baggage is covered in this complicated play, which is based on a true story, but its premise urges living life and embracing it, even in the most painful of times, a message we can all use right now. These actors, including Laurie Atlas as Nurse, gave it their all. And while they may not be lauded in Variety or Theatre World, their performances are absolutely stellar.
“The Tin Woman” will be presented Oct. 22 and 23 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 24 at 3 p.m. Tickets will be sold at the door or click on: thetinwomanbellport-playcrafters.bpt.me. Proof of vaccination and valid IDs are required as well masks.
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