Living and Dying with Tricia McCauley is a raw and personal journey through grief. Tricia McCauley, the local actress whose brutal 2016 murder rocked the theater community, was a personal friend and collaborator of Deborah Randall who wrote, produced, and directed this one-woman show, now playing at Venus Theatre in Laurel, MD. Randall, who is the founder and visionary behind Venus Theatre, is also the performer.
McCauley was raped and brutally murdered by a man she seems to have offered to help. But this play is more about her life and the effects it had on her friend, Randall. Randall succeeds in offering us this homage to her friend, which includes insights into their friendship. It also delves into how this horror affected Randall, her anger, her despair, and her own sad memories which surfaced with the loss.
She paints a picture of McCauley as a kind friend, a creative actress, and a person in touch with nature. While she deals with her own feelings, Randall is moving, but keeps the focus on her friend and keeps the dialogue from being too maudlin.
Two very moving sections for me were the photographs of McCauley projected on the back wall for about five minutes. It made her real, as did the video of her graduation speech. The scenes where Randall comes to terms with the loss, or at least attempts to come to terms, are gut-wrenching.
The set was created by Amy Rhodes and reflects Tricia’s apartment during their friendship, full of books, plants, and even a live fish in a tank. A large couch sits upstage and represents the one where McCauley sat while she watched Randall perform new material.
Rocks located at the edge of the center of the stage bear the names of other violently murdered women. A point well noted this week as yet another innocent woman was violently killed in this area.
Kristin Thompson’s lighting also helped create the feeling that we were sitting in someone’s home but that something was amiss. And, I usually don’t review programs, but this production had two. One depicts the two friends and is quite moving. The other is a portrait of Tricia McCauley. It is haunting.
This is an important play in today’s world. It is all too familiar. Once violence or exploitation are seen as the norm, the more deviant members of our society think that they can get away with even more violent and exploitive behavior. When we put a face on the victim, we focus on trying to eradicate these abhorrent acts, not just against women, but against humanity.
Running Time: One hour, with no intermission.