Review: Annapurna (until October 10, PAL Studio Theatre)

Buy tickets for Annapurna

Annapurna grabs your attention from the moment you sit down and look at the set, a ramshackle 1970s-era trailer, although the play is set in the present. My attention did not waver. The play’s crackling tension keeps you engaged throughout.

We can all relate to wanting, even fantasizing about, a conclusive conversation that puts to rest all sorts of ugly, lingering,unresolved matters with an ex-partner. That is the reality that Ulysses, an ex-professor on disability with emphysema and living in rural Colorado, and Emma, his ex-wife who ran from their marriage with their son in tow, enact when Emma pops in without warning to Ulysses’s disorderly trailer living room. The way that they converse with each other and act towards each other is fascinating to me. Twenty years can pass, and some things do not change, even if everything else does.

Annapurna PAL Studio Theatre, Christy Webb, Director, September 2015 (photo credit Anne Marie Slater)

Annapurna PAL Studio Theatre, Christy Webb, Director, September 2015 (photo credit Anne Marie Slater)

Annapurna is both a beautiful and deadly mountain (actually a set of mountains), and a Hindu mother goddess of the harvest. Looking at the Wikipedia page in advance might enhance your appreciation of the title and its significance in this play.

Emma wants to make everything appear nice and good. She remains insistent that their son should never know the truth. Although Emma is eminently easy to sympathize with, and has made some difficult choices to improve her life and that of her son, ultimately she represents co-dependence, although such a characterization is insufficiently complex, What does it mean to forgive–a question I frequently ponder?

We all live with the inherent tension that someone we love can be both horrible and lovable, sometimes a monster but more often not. Any number of human beings demonstrate daily that you can be a masterful poet, artist, musician, or philanthropist, and yet abusive to one’s family. The good and evil do not cancel out, and denying either is not helpful. It’s hard to accept this complex conundrum.

This play is a splendid combination of a great set (I often overlook sets, but it’s so important here), terrific acting by two mature actors ( Daryl Shuttleworth and Lucia Frangione), and a demanding, nuanced script (this is one that particularly depends on the quality of the acting to reveal the internal drama of the characters). Despite the deadly seriousness, though, the play has many funny moments. Tragedy coexists with humor in real life, and it does in this play also.

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