nytheatre.com review by David Ian Lee
August 14, 2009
Afterlight, written by Monica Flory and presented by Threads Theater Company, is fairly thin on dramatic action or plot. The play examines the lives of a handful of residents of a nameless small town in the Northeast following an unexpected tragedy that claims the life of a beloved school bus driver. What keeps this ambling piece alive is witty dialogue with an ear for character, plus strong performances from a multi-generational cast.
Angus Hepburn is stellar as Michael, a sweetly befuddled elder gentleman with a curmudgeonly edge; reminiscent of Hume Cronyn or Spencer Tracy, he brings subtlety and elegance to the role of a man uncertain of purpose in life's later years. "Were we enough?" Michael asks of his wife, Louise (the dignified Kim Carlson), as they look back on a childless marriage.
Allyson Morgan and Davi Santos are charming as Pru and Hunter, teenage lovers who find themselves in pursuit of a wolf that may or may not contain the spirit of Pru's absent father; Santos is especially engaging, with a loose, playful quality that hints at his potential should he continue in this career.
The cast is rounded out by Kimberly Prentice as Ann, a young mother helping her son, Shane, to reconcile symbols of life and death he alone may be able to perceive. Her situation is complicated by Hess, the father of Ann's soon-to-be-born second child, who—though eager to raise his biological daughter—wants little to do with Shane. The young Tyler Merna is impressive as Shane, possessed as he is of a deadpan stillness seldom seen in child actors, and Frank Mihelich offers a fine supporting turn as the gruff and troublesome Hess.
The production is hindered by perpetual musical underscoring by Kimberly Fuhr; alternately bombastic and maudlin, the constant twinge of harps and piano chords robs scenes that otherwise play with a natural degree of ambiguity. Otherwise, the technical elements in Director Misti B. Wills's staging are effective and exciting; Bobby Bradley's simple set and evocative lighting are inventive and dynamic, playing in surprising ways with Threads Theater Company's oft revisited themes of spirituality and tertiary struggle. Afterlight is a meditative evening of theatre, slight on conflict, but heavy on introspection and charm.