Encore Michigan

‘Reap The Grove’ at Matrix beautifully tells of reconciliation amidst an untimely death

Review February 10, 2019 David Kiley

DETROIT, Mich.–When art really imitates life, when it is really good, there will be pain. And, of course, it needs to feel like truth. Reap The Wild Grove, now performing at The Matrix Theatre here, beautifully conveys the pain of cancer, impending death and reconciliation within a family.

Sandra (Amy Bass Morrisey) has stage-4 lung cancer, and has asked her two daughters, Judith (Kelly Rose Voigt) an Beckah (Annabelle Young) to come and see her before she dies. Sandra has a wife, Nan (JM Ethridge) who the daughters have never quite reconciled as their mother’s partner.

The three women had a rough life growing up. Sandra had a drinking problem and ended up in the hospital or rehab a few times. The father was not in the picture. Beckah was the rebellious one, while Judith was the daughter who worked hard in school and tried to hold things together.

The daughters were not aware of their Mother’s illness until they were called. Beckah and Judith don’t much like one another and they aren’t feeling very warm and fuzzy toward their Mom. Meantime, Nan, for much of the play, walks through the story fixing meals, making sure Sandra takes her medicines, soothes her when she has coughing fits. In fact, she seems more hired caretaker than family.

Playwright Caity-Shea Violette captures the tension of a fractured family beautifully with her dialogue. And director Sonja Marquis cast and directs the production with great balance. Morrissey carries her infirmity with total believability, her body language and gate right on the mark to portray a woman getting her life and affairs in order. Ethridge is beautiful as she manages a transition from mere caretaker to fully integrated family member by the end of the play, and showing her devotion to Sandra, and her emotional needs leading up to the loss of her spouse.

Sandra’s impending death works to break down some of the starch in the sisters, and we see them transform too.

The set, designed by Melinda Pacha, is just right–a small house in a small town with flowered wallpaper walls, couch and dresser, and a transition that serves as a patio facing the west for seeing sunsets, wicker settee, etc.

A death by cancer, when the victim has time, is a journey. Anyone who has been through it with loved ones knows that family and close loved ones go through their own stages of acceptance and defense. The stages are not just for the victim.

That journey is all too common, impacting millions of families a year. The subject matter is not easy for some. Many people do not want to be reminded of going through that journey once it is over. Others will take in the art created from the reality of cancer and be comforted by the shared story. I definitely fall into the latter camp.

Let the next stage of the journey begin at The Matrix, and taking in Reap The Grove, running until February 24.

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