War is a horrible thing. It not only affects those who fight in the trenches, but it impacts those waiting for their loved ones at home. And once these soldiers arrive home (or don’t, in some cases), what happens next? Single Carrot Theatre’s Phoebe in Winter shows how much a war can affect the identities of an entire family.
Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival, Jen Silverman’s Phoebe in Winter opens with the elderly Da Creedy and his maid/illegitimate daughter Boggett awaiting the return of his three sons from war. Soon after sons Anther and Jeremiah arrive home, the door bursts open to reveal Phoebe, holding an gun and insisting that since her brothers were killed by soldiers in the war, she will now claim this family as her own. Phoebe quickly gains power in the household, causing Boggett to take on the role of the still-missing Liam and Da Creedy to don a maid’s outfit to care for the household. Once Liam arrives home, however, everything quickly changes, information about the war and the family’s former roles are revealed, and no one feels comfortable in their own skin.
Genevieve De Mahy’s direction is spectacular from the moment the audience arrives at the theatre until the final creative curtain call. When my friend and I entered the theatre, we had to walk across the stage with a scene between Da Creedy and Boggett already in progress. My friend turned to me and whispered, “Are we supposed to be on stage?” Yes, we were, and it’s directing choices like this one that make the audience feel like part of the cast from moment one.
Lauren Erica Jackson is powerful as the confident and vigilant Phoebe. Even in moments when she seems vulnerable or tender, she still wears the armor of Phoebe’s thick skin.
Richard Goldberg is comical and endearing as the befuddled Da Creedy, who desperately searches for a comfortable identify throughout the show.
The three soldier brothers are a perfectly matched set. Paul Diem does a wonderful job with the role of overly-polite and overly-apologetic Anther. Matthew Shea is electric as the hot-headed Jeremiah, and Dustin C.T. Morris is engaging as the childlike, loveable Liam.
Stealing the show, however, is Lauren A. Saunders as Boggett. Her character smoothly and quickly evolves from a hysterical maid to a confident soldier. Even at her most self-assured moments, one can see the emotions brimming at the surface, ready to erupt as soon as Liam arrives home. She is truly a star.
Scenic Designer Jason Randolph’s set is a multi-level masterpiece, decorated with vintage furniture and accessories (including a gorgeous claw-foot tub with running water!).
Sarah Kendrick’s costumes are not only detailed and lovely (down to the tiny buttons on Boggett’s shoes), but they also help to distinguish the characters’ old and new identities. For example, as Phoebe becomes from ingratiated into the home, her wardrobe becomes more like that of a dignified lady and less like that of a combat solider.
Lighting Designer Tabetha White beautifully accentuates the scenes with light and makes the final climactic scene even more powerful by lighting the entire stage in red.
Sound Designer Steven Krigel’s incorporation of music and news through the vintage radio adds even more meaning to already poignant scenes.
While the acting and production of the show is top-notch, the play itself could use some work. The play begins and draws the audience into a family in conflict. Once Liam arrives home, however, everything is turned on its head, and the work turns from compelling to bizarre, and at times, it’s confusing.
Not only do we see the turmoil that erupts in a post-war family, but the characters of Phoebe and Boggett exemplify the strength of women that is meant to be showcased during the Women’s Voices Theater Festival.
Phoebe in Winter has an exceptional cast that must be seen.
Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.
Note: This performance contains nudity and fog.