by Collin McConnell · January 21, 2015

A voice in the dark. Remembering...

And then: an unfocused slide projected on the wooden back wall: of a person? A man? Slowly, it comes into focus. Ah, of course. The story — the play, the memory — can begin.

There is a dark secret among this family. When the siblings were children, their oldest brother Adam did something horrendous that seems to have kept the family split ever since. Twenty years later, they're all coming together for Thanksgiving — including Adam, whom they haven't seen since he was arrested when they were children, and whom they don't know is coming. 

But there's a bigger secret, one that only their mother and Adam know... there's something their father kept locked in a box... 

Lesser America's Wyoming is a play of great expanses — of space, of time, of family. It is also a play of secrets, and of finding out what one doesn't expect. 

It is difficult to talk about the play, as I believe the joy of it is in the final discovery of what it is really about. But, then again, that's also what it's about — what we don't talk about. Brian Watkins' script flows naturally down the garbled, stuttering path of what a family knows, doesn't know, and doesn't understand what someone else doesn't know that it's hard not to laugh at the uncomfortably familiar confusion. And the production dances with time and memory in a strangely fluid, almost natural grace (through the gentle shifts and wonderful use of practicals by lighting designer Masha Tsimring and the gentle swelling of Robin Pecknold and Neal Morgan's music). Director Danya Taymor has given the play all the space of Wyoming to breathe in, and yet it all seems so neatly packed in as we move into and out of the climactic Thanksgiving dinner. 

The cast all deliver outstanding performances that feel almost as though they should go unnoticed - these are just people, with their own dark past, that will drift along in time. Daniel Abeles as Tom and Nate Miller as Grant draw us slowly into the play at the top with the most winding and almost cryptic of dialogue that they brilliantly allow to unravel in their odd dichotomy of PhD Student and Oil Worker. Sarah Sokolovic's April maneuvers not-so-gracefully (though rather humorously) around and through dark family history and several drinks while on a date (all-the-while keeping her eager and playful daughter Sarah [Layla Koshnoudi] occupied with her headphones). There is something sourly-sweet in watching the romance that will slowly spark between Laura Ramadei's sassy Maggie and Carter Hudson's surprisingly perceptive Hank. And Roger Lirtsman as Adam moves through the play with an unexpected gentleness, finally delivering one of the more moving moments of the play with such a simple honesty that makes it hurt all the more. 

There are a few oddities in the production itself, however. Maggie, the matriarch, is played by an actress the same age as those playing her children. In experiencing the play, I found myself fighting this, not understanding its necessity. But this play, as much as it may feel like realism, isn't. It is a memory - and the children's mother lives with them not as she is, but as she is remembered. And then, some things aren't present. Like Sarah's date, or the Thanksgiving turkey. But as it was smartly pointed out to me, perhaps it isn't about what's absent, but about what is present: the family, and the alcohol. 

Wyoming is a beautiful tour through a difficult mystery, wandering and as unexpected as the majesty of the landscape it all lives within... 

More slides. But slowly they're less and less familiar. I'm drifting... the play - that memory - is fading...






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