‘Conversations I’ve Never Had’ at The Catholic University of America

Conversations I’ve  Never Had is a brilliant, poignant, and funny new play written by CUA M.F.A. candidate, Kathleen Burke, and directed by Mary Resing. This is Burke’s first produced work at CUA, after having some of her other work produced at Drew University and The United Solo Festival.

Conversations I’ve Never Had follows the early marriage of a young playwright named Ruth (Third year M.F.A candidate Latia Stokes) and her husband/producer Brad (Kiernan McGowan). The happy couple’s relationship is strained until an unfortunate occurrence and aftermath from her past begins to haunt her.

Natasha Gallop, Kiernan McGowan, and Latia Stokes. Photo courtesy of CUA Hartke Theatre.
Natasha Gallop, Kiernan McGowan, and Latia Stokes. Photo courtesy of CUA Hartke Theatre.

And to make things more interesting, Ruth is writing and editing a new play. As the evening progresses, we are treated to two plays: Ruth’s play and the play about Ruth. It may sound confusing but Director Mary Resing has cleverly staged the experience so that the two stories never collide or become confusing, and that’s why this was such a unique, exciting, and rewarding experience.

Lewis Folden’s ingenious set design contributes to the storytelling with multiple platforms that overlap each other-utilizing several tiers of different heights. The living room is in the middle, the bedroom is angled diagonally, while the  kitchen is on the other side – also angled at a higher elevation. This makes the intimate stage appear larger than it really is

When I entered the Hartke Theatre  I was escorted to my ‘bleacher’ seat which was on the stage, and it was thrilling that I was so close to the action and that I was allowed to witness all the events that occurred in the actual play and the play-within-the play – as the actors stood closely by.

Costume Designer Gail Stewart Beach dresses the cast in simple modern attire: suits, jackets, dresses, and skirts, and provide a simple, yet elegant, wedding gown and veil for Ruth. Warm and rich yellows dominate the lighting design by Andrew Cissna, and Frank DiSalvo provides the crisp sound design..

The cast does a marvelous job bringing the multiples stories alive.

Third year M.F.A candidate Latia Stokes brings a large-than-life performance as Ruth. Stokes juggles all the different ‘faces’ of Ruth miraculously and convincingly – the obnoxious, the funny, the indecisive, and the in-your-face playwright and wife.

Stokes is equally matched by Natasha Gallop who plays Ruth’s feisty sister, Amy. And although there is sibling rivalry and disagreements, they do share a strong sisterly bond.

Playwright Kathleen Burke.
Playwright Kathleen Burke.

Stephanie Tomiko, Anthony Papastrat, and Ciaran Farley, are superb in playing multiple characters, including a priest, a saint, and a heroine, and they bring a lot of humor with their portrayals.

Kiernan McGowan, who is one of my favorite Catholic University actors, gives a stellar performance as Ruth’s confused and caring husband Brad, who feels helpless because he doesn’t know how or if he can help his wife.

Third year M.F.A. candidate, Graham Pilato portrays Gardner, the drama teacher. He delivers a chilling, haunting, and sympathetic performance as the play’s antagonist. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him during his performance, and it’s a performance I won’t soon forget.

I am a regular audience member of Catholic University theatre productions, and this is one of my favorite productions. I thoroughly enjoyed Conversations I’ve Never Had, and I eagerly await future productions of this play. I wish Kathleen Burke much success in her playwriting career. It’s off to a great start!

Running Time: 2 hours, with a 10-minutes intermission.

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Conversations I’ve Never Had has three more performances remaining: tonight at 7:30 PM; Friday, February 20th at 7:30 PM; and Saturday, February 21, 2015 at 2 PM at The Catholic University’s Hartke Theatre – 3801 Harewood Road NE, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (202) 319-4000, purchase them at the box office, or online.

RATING: FOUR-AND-A-HALF-STARS10.gif