A young man moves from his native Croatia in 1910 seeking a better life and becomes a union organizer in 1940s Wyoming. After he urges his daughter to leave Rock Springs to attend college in California, she becomes a corporate organizer in 1980s Japan, where her son learns his own way of leaving. Clarvoe’s play moves back and forth through the decades, exploring how each generation leaves their family in the hope of moving upward and how familial influences are passed through the children of the children.
There are many similarities between the fierce mothers in all three eras. They willingly inflict emotional pain on themselves in order to better the lives of their children. Even the books they make available to them explore the themes of leaving home and traveling—the Odyssey, Huckleberry Finn and others. Haley Johnson plays both the mother of a young Croatian boy and the modern mother in Japan. In one instance she offers her son to a priest to “save” him, and in the other she “loses” her son to his newfound religious calling. These little coincidences are repeated over and over through the generations.
In addition to exploring family themes, the playwright uses his clever script to express his personal opinions as well. The union organizer states his feeling that unions will start to die when members value loyalty to one another regardless of principle. When the older Alma asks her son what happens when he sits cross-legged and meditates, he replies that he gets bored and his knees hurt. She retorts, “Big change from Catholicism!”
The unit set designed by Tina Anderson with a Zen gravel garden and a built-in pond provides acting areas for all the decades. It is enhanced by the lighting design of Andrew Metzroth and the sound design of Matthew Fischer, which integrates the water theme throughout the production.
The ensemble cast makes the changes between locales and years seamlessly. Casey Andree is both the village priest in Croatia who imparts mixed messages about the value of leaving home, and a Zen practitioner in Japan. Chris Kendall brings his maturity to the roles of a recruiter of young men to work in America and the older version of the boy he recruits. Adrian Egolf, continuing her jump from Creede to Denver, plays the pampered daughter of a shipping magnate in Croatia, and then the caregiving daughter of the union organizer being pushed out of the nest. The players weave the story together beautifully.
Another excellent, thought-provoking production by BETC.
WOW factor: 8.5