Reviewed by Susan Hasho
Take Me Back is a jewel of a production. Housed in downtown Walkerspace, this darkly humorous new play by Emily Schwend has been beautifully realized by the actors and supported by an obviously gifted director (Jay Stull), with a meticulously conceived set and sound design.
The play opens with the sounds of a TV game show playing on the old-fashioned set in a small but cozy living room and kitchen. We are introduced to a mother and son with obvious challenges. The son Bill, just out of a four-year stint in prison, is living with his compulsive, candy-addicted diabetic mother and trying to get his life going again. His former girlfriend from high school drops by for a visit; and little by little it becomes apparent that he can’t control his mother’s candy, he has feelings for his married girlfriend and a problem staying away from crime. This 90-minute play successfully deals with layers of family and social dysfunction in an Oklahoma town by using well-written southern humor and heartfelt revelation to reveal, among other things, how heartbreaking not being able to change or grow can be.
The actors are all perfectly cast, and as a sensitively tuned ensemble, deliver all the emotional twists and turns the play demands. Charlotte Booker as Bill’s mother, Sue, is a complex creation of fussy concern, love and dismay with a couple of surprises thrown in. She’s a joy to watch and compelling to the core. As her son Bill, James Kautz maintains a taut undercurrent of both anticipation and dread while achieving an expert and spontaneous performance. Boo Killebrew as Julie is a constantly amusing open book. In her hands, Julie is an un-ordinary, ordinary girl who uses every moment to search out some sort of resolution for her life. And, as the lurking threat of a character Casey, Jay Eisenberg is in turns vulnerable and menacing—ambiguity played to great effect.
The play by Emily Schwend is a realistic character study of a man who can’t seem to help himself, and the grief it causes everyone. And, at the same time, it is a study of people who try to help each other, and can’t quite. The skillful humor in the play makes it all entertaining; and the high level of truth in the writing makes us care. Don’t miss this play.
It plays through March 22nd; Wednesday – Saturday at 8pm. Performances are at Walkerspace, 46 Walker Street between Broadway and Church Streets. Tickets are $18 and available by calling SmartTix at 212-868-4444 or by visiting www.smarttix.com. www.sohorep.org
*Photos: Russ Rowland