By Myra Chanin . . .
Three cheers for Boca Stage’s Artistic Director Keith Garsson for, once again, locating a little-known drama, Luna Gale by Rebecca Gilman, with an unusual, clear look of an unfortunately widespread problem: teen-age drug addiction and/or parenthood. Garsson also skillfully directed this four-star production which includes four-star performances by each one of the seven actors in his beautifully balanced South Florida cast – Abby Wolf, Jason Pierre, Jacqueline Laggy, Annya Bright, Randall Swinton, Marlo Rodriguez and Brian Edgecomb.
The plot is intricate, engrossing, heart-scalding and unforgettable. The actors change facial expressions and body language to match the changing feelings and moods of the characters each plays. Thanks to Alberto Arroyo’s easy to don and doff costumes and wigs, they zip from one outfit to another as the passage of time requires. In addition, the cast is a triumph in diversity with four brown-skinned and three white-skinned actors carrying out their dramatic missions like they were born to act together, their ethnicity far less consequential that the miracle of their communal credibility.
Luna Gale is a precise and dour work, which makes the Sold-Out house at the performance I attended even more admirable. I still cannot dispel the all too accurate roadblocks faced by its unfortunate characters from my mind. Everyone wants to do good, but each brings along baggage that makes staying on the path they should and would follow difficult to achieve. On the plus side, the play ends on a hopeful note, but without real surety of an eventual positive ending, when Luna Gale’s sire displays the desire and potential of becoming a responsibly loving Daddy by accepting help from his own father in order to succeed.
Luna Gale is the name of the very dehydrated infant brought to a midwestern hospital ER by her 19-year-old parents, Karlie and Peter. While Karlie frantically stuffs both their faces with sweets, Peter slumps semi-comatose on a wooden bench in the ER waiting room. Karlie’s father died when she was three and the stepfather that succeeded him may be the wellspring of Karlie’s subsequent problems. Peter’s parents also divorced, and left him, one at a time, to fend for himself in an apartment which turned into the party house where he and Karlie met and fell in love.
The mess is dumped on an impressively capable, experienced, and intuitive social worker, Caroline, who immediately asks Karlie and Peter how long they’ve been smoking meth. Caroline’s plan for them includes counselling and rehab, which she has trouble setting up because an increasing number of applicants need the services of inadequate facilities whose funding is continuously being cut. In addition, Caroline’s ignorance of her former supervisor Mimi’s bizarre work behavior has eliminated Caroline from getting the supervisory job she deserves. Instead, she is overseen by the upward mobile bureaucrat Cliff who replaces a lack of casework experience with a plethora of ambition.
Karlie and her mother Cindy are at odds. Cindy works as a nursing assistant, has accepted Jesus as her personal savior, disapproves of her daughter and Peter and conceals her hope of adopting Luna Gale to have her baptized and let her live in Jesus’s love. Cindy is supported in her religious efforts by Pastor Jay, her close friend, who is connected with Cliff, Caroline’s newly appointed supervisor. Lourdes, another client of Caroline’s, is a real success story. She’s graduated from The System and was accepted to Community College but will this last.
Cindy assumes the housing and care of Luna Gale via an agency kinship care program, allowing Caroline to focus on getting Karlie and Peter into counseling and rehab. It’s barely adequate but gets them clean and allows them to go before a judge who will decide who keeps Luna Gale. Caroline’s intuition and her own past tell her Karlie might have been assaulted by her stepfather and she urges Karlie to share her memories with her counsellor to stop her mother from adopting the child.
As the curtain falls on Act 1, we wonder whose aim will succeed. The social worker’s? the grandmother and her pastor’s? Is there an unknown connection between Caroline’s supervisor Cliff and Pastor Jay that favors Cindy getting the child? Will Lourdes stay in college? Do Karlie and Peter stay clean? All will be resolved in a hopeful way.
Gillman’s writing is sensational as are all the performances. She cuts no corners. There is no sentiment in this play, just life as it is for people like this. The females have the most lines and each one is magnificent. The male actors with smaller parts are bigger than life and own the stage because they seem to be the characters they play.
More about the actors, everyone praiseworthy.
Abby Wolfe (Karlie), a stage and film actor, also teaches improv to teens at Next Stop Broadway in Coral Springs.
Miami’s Jason Pierre (Peter), a very busy FAU theater grad, sounds like he works non-stop with two independent films and myriad stage performances including Coalhouse in Ragtime, Jared in Tap Dancing through Auschwitz, and Rocky in The Rocky Horror Show on his credits.
The very versatile Jacqueline Laggy (Caroline) who’s starred in many South Florida productions including Boca Stage’s Warrior Class, Andy and the Orphans, plus The Lyons, Chapter Two and Other People’s Money.
Annya Bright (Cindy), a standup comedienne trained in theater by West Chester University and Burt Reynolds’ Master Class and won an international theater competition.
Marlo Rodriguez (Lourdes), actor/director with a MFA from FAU in theatre performance, recent credits include performing in Lungs, Miami Bus Stop and directing Once on This Island at the Slow Burn Theater.
Randall Swinton (Cliff), actor and Boca Stage technical crew member whose roles range from moving sets in Rx to stealing paintings in the interactive crime mystery The Art Heist Experience.
By the final curtain, Brian Edgecomb (Pastor Jay), actor/director with an MFA from Purdue making his Boca Stage debut in Luna Dale, who also teaches future artists the wonders of theater at the Fine Arts Academy at North Broward Preparatory School, had me, the daughter of communist atheists, considering accepting Jesus as my personal savior but only if Pastor Jay made the introductions.
Luna Gale is being performed at the Sol Children’s Theater, 3333 N. Federal Highway in Boca Raton. Call 561-447-8829 or contact www.BocaStage.net for tickets to future Performances: Friday evening April 4 at 8 pm, Saturday evening April 5 at 8 pm, Sunday Matinee April 6 at 2 pm, Friday evening April 11 at 8 pm, Saturday evening April 12 at 8 pm and Sunday matinee April13 at 2 pm
Photos by Amy Pasquantonio
(Lead Photo:Randall Swinton & Jacqueline Laggy)