Theater Review: TO CARRY THE CHILD (Collaborative Artists Ensemble at the Raven Playhouse)

Post image for Theater Review: TO CARRY THE CHILD (Collaborative Artists Ensemble at the Raven Playhouse)

by Jeanne Hartman on September 20, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles

TOUCHING MOMENTS DO NOT
SUSTAIN FAMILY DRAMA

In Collaborative Artists Ensemble’s production of Jon Courie’s new play, To Carry the Child, the oldest daughter, Ashley (Meg Wallace), her life in shreds, is facing a serious disease and finds her lover, Diane (Justine Woodford) running from the crisis. She returns to her family home in Caraprice Ilse, North Carolina, in need of support from: her anxious-to-please mother, Lib (Pamela Daly); her bigoted and dictatorial father, Bo (Robin Nuyen); and her favorite younger sister, Sissie (Christine Haeberman), pregnant with the first grandchild. Ashley is defenseless when dealing with her family. She longs for some clarity but finds little solace and fewer answers to the questions that have plagued her all her life.

To Carry The Child by Jon Courie – based on the poem by Stevie Smith - Collaborative Artists Ensemble at the Raven Playhouse - Los Angeles Theater Review by Jeanne Hartman

To Carry the Child, based on Stevie Smith’s poem of the same name, is a new play, but certainly not a new subject. As with Tennessee Williams, Southern family angst is familiar territory, but requires genuineness in plot and acting. Mr. Courie weighs down this family drama with too many secrets and conflicts. Although there is no mention of the kitchen sink, there were plates of pie flying across the room, along with revelations of cancer, pregnancy, and suicide. Unfortunately, the attempt to tie it all together in the second act lacks credibility.

To Carry The Child by Jon Courie – based on the poem by Stevie Smith - Collaborative Artists Ensemble at the Raven Playhouse - Los Angeles Theater Review by Jeanne Hartman

Certainly, audiences crave resolution, but not at the expense of implausible turnarounds. It feels inauthentic when family members reveal personal truths because another member is facing death. When the father reveals his own father’s suicide (which he never mentioned before in his adult life), the unmotivated confession seems compulsory, even as Mr. Nuyen gives the performance his all.

To Carry The Child by Jon Courie – based on the poem by Stevie Smith - Collaborative Artists Ensemble at the Raven Playhouse - Los Angeles Theater Review by Jeanne Hartman

The first moments of any play are crucial, and director Steve Jarrard doesn’t help his cause by making some basic mistakes at the onset. Creating the relationship between two characters, especially family members with decades of history, needs to be handled delicately; believable choices must be made. When Ashley walks into her family home and encounters her mother, neither one moves or says a word; we seem to be watching an acting exercise, not a meeting of two flesh and blood people. A more logical choice would be to have the actors play against type by attempting to be cordial.

To Carry The Child by Jon Courie – based on the poem by Stevie Smith - Collaborative Artists Ensemble at the Raven Playhouse - Los Angeles Theater Review by Jeanne Hartman

Also early on, the mother tells the two daughters to sit down when they are both already seated. If this is in the script, it’s a director’s job to make it work. This senseless distraction came across as a flaw. Although the play finds its footing later on, these opening moments leave a lasting imprint. Still, Ms. Wallace is passionate with frustration, and her scene with Ms. Haeberman is especially touching and very convincing in its depiction of sibling rivalry.

Perhaps Thomas Wolfe’s assertion “You can’t go home again” still holds true: You cannot expect family members to change and grow on your timetable. To Carry the Child contains some small human moments of family angst that touch the audience, but the constant exposition and revelations become burdensome.

photos by Steve Jarrard

To Carry the Child
Raven Playhouse
5233 Lankershim Blvd in North Hollywood
ends on October 16, 2011
for tickets, call 323.860.6569 or visit Collaborative Artists

Comments on this entry are closed.