Review: ‘The Tin Woman’ at Prince George’s Little Theatre

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The Tin Woman, written by Sean Grennan, is based on a true story, and is Prince George’s Little Theatre’s winter production. The show is directed by Estelle Miller, who also designed the set, and is produced by Roy Peterson, who also provided the Set Decoration.

Heart transplant recipient Joy should be celebrating her new life. Instead, she is in a downward spiral, unsure whether she deserves a second chance. Meanwhile, Alice and Hank mourn the loss of their son, Jack, who was Joy’s heart donor. Darla, Joy’s friend, urges her to track down the family, but Alice, Hank, and their daughter Sammy are still struggling to accept Jack’s death.

The Tin Woman is a thought-provoking story that explores final moments, family relationships, and what it means to be given a second chance at life.

Zarah Rautell (Joy). Photo by Andrew Culhane.

After her heart transplant, Joy (Zarah Rautell) is depressed and this is shown by her listless body language, endless sleeping, and pain-filled facial expressions. However, before Joy leaves the hospital, she asks about contacting the donor’s family. Rautell is superb as she gradually transitions Joy’s pain to hope.

Zarah Rautell (Joy) and Brawnlyn Patterson (Darla). Photo by Andrew Culhane.

Darla (Brawnlyn Patterson) is Joy’s spunky friend, who lives life to the fullest. Wearing brightly colored outfits, a true expression of her jovial personality, she tries everything to bring Joy out of her black hole. Patterson is sharp with her quick-witted lines and has great comedic timing. While laughter is the best medicine, Darla is a loyal best friend who gives Joy a lot of latitude. Both Patterson and Rautell demonstrate a tried and true friendship because of Darla’s determination and Joy’s honesty. These two actresses give us that ‘best friend’ chemistry that cannot be denied. Patterson plays a dual role as Joy’s nurse. This character is so unlike Darla because of her doting actions. Patterson is adorable in this role and gives an overall solid performance.

Alice (Barbara Webber) is Jack’s mother. Webber is a talented actress, and she she keeps Alice’s feelings at bay for a good part of the show. Tip-toeing around her husband and daughter, Alice is a rock with a soft-spoken tone and matter-of-fact dialogue. There is an underlying anguish that is ready to explode from her snappy retorts and somber moods. Webber’s acting talents are remarkable, especially when she is teamed with Hank (Jim Estepp).

Estepp is a hidden gem in this production as he takes his character Hank from snippy jerk to outraged maniac. His quips are funny but his harsh behavior is scary, although these emotions make sense. Estepp is transparent as Hank, with clenched fists and gritting teeth, and always seething with anger. Without a doubt, Estepp has powerful lungs, and one brilliant monologue.

Sammy (Jenn Robinson) is Jack’s sister and is riding a wacky roller coaster with her emotions. From laughter to tears – photos, clothing, and general conversations triggers Sammy’s hysteria, which is actually quite humorous, as Robinson provides much comic relief. Her sweet persona as a pre-school teacher helps Sammy work through her grief over her brother’s death.

Jack (Carlo Olivi) is an “image” on stage, as his presence and touch lends comfort to the other characters. In the end, Jack helps to bring the plotline full-circle.

The set and costume designs were created in a simplistic, but effective, manner. There are four locales: Joy’s hospital room, depicted by a single hospital bed; the cemetery with a single bench; Joy’s apartment which is decorated with a small sofa and coffee table; and Jack’s parents’ home, with a dining room table, a hunch/bar, sofa, and a coffee table.

Costume Coordinator Hillary Glass provided Joy’s costumes that changed from hospital gown, to pajamas (at home), to sweat pants, and then to a lovely pair of slacks and blouse, with her hair neatly pulled back into a ponytail. Darla is contemporary in her fancy and Glass provides her with very colorful outfits ranging from reds to yellows.

James Estepp (Hank), Carlo Olivi (Jack), Jenn Robinson(Sammy), and Barbara Webber (Alice). Photo by Andrew Culhane.

Alice keeps it simple with blouses and slacks, while Sammy wears a skirt and top and then pants and a blouse. Hank’s costumes are comprised of beige trousers and casual button-down shirts. Jack wear jeans, a t-shirt, and a jean jacket throughout the entire production.

Sound Designer Den Giblin utilizes recognizable sounds from Joy’s heart monitor to chirping birds to the sounds of a car motor being turning off. Teaming with Lighting Designer Garret Hyde, who hits all the fade-ins and fade-outs, they create an atmosphere of day and night. As always, the crew pulls together all the technical aspects to make the stars shine.

The Tim Woman unfolds from scene to scene as we watch these characters transform. It is an intriguing subject matter and we learn that no matter how many people are in the room, each person will have a different reaction to death.

Prince George’s Little Theatre’s The Tin Woman is a beautifully written play, filled with outstanding performances that provide many surprises.

Running Time: Approximately two hours, with a 15-minute intermission.

The Tin Woman plays through January 28, 2017 at Prince George’s Little Theatre performing at the Bowie Playhouse – 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call (301) 937-7458, buy them at the box office, or purchase them online.

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Danielle Angeline
Danielle Angeline was bit by the theater bug when she took a set design class in college. Her instructor reminded her of George Michael (Got to Have Faith). She then decided to major in technical theater and design at Towson State University. After graduating, this led her to work at Universal Studios Florida and the Carnival Cruise Lines as a stage manager, group coordinator and arcade manager. Returning home to Maryland, her career transitioned from CAD work to a technical writer/trainer for the past 15 years. During that time, Danielle volunteered as an Information Specialist with the Smithsonian. Museum assignments included Natural History, Portrait Gallery, and the Castle. She is now pursuing her theatre/arts career again as a writer and dedicating herself to her greatest passions: theatre, writing, family & friends, painting, tasty & innovative cuisine and her cats: Cheyanne and Sierra.