Posts Tagged ‘kate mcallister’

by Ben Jolivet
Directed by Kate McAllister
Tesseract Theatre
February 16, 2018

Tesseract Theatre’s latest production is called Cold.  Using the relatively new .Zack theatre space in an interesting new way, this well-cast play has a promising script. It’s a new play that faces some fairly modern approaches to some age-old issues.

The story features two very different women who seem to have been happily married, although now they are facing a crisis that challenges their relationship as well as their differing views on life and death. Jane (Erika Cockerham) and Ellie (Katie Palazzola) are devasted to learn that their five-year-old daughter, who is suffering from a life-threatening infection, is not expected to survive the last-ditch attempt to save her life. As they wait for the results of the procedure, the couple faces a dilemma–what to do if the procedure isn’t a success. The scientific-minded Jane has read up on cryogenics, and sees the idea of preserving their daughter’s brain as a measure of hope, but Ellie isn’t convinced. As the two consider the issue, they also are forced to confront their fears and doubts about their relationship, and about their approaches to parenting and life in general. There’s also another character: Kim (Rae Davis), a discouraged, sleep-deprived nurse who is new to her job and feeling insecure after a poor report from her supervisor. She enters the scene at a particularly dramatic moment and helps Ellie examine her own perspective. Essentially, that’s the story, with the emphasis being more on character study and relationship dynamics than on the issue of cryogenics specifically, although it is talked about in a fair amount of detail. The real story, though, is the relationships, between the couple but also between Ellie and Kim, and especially between the couple and their unseen, unnamed daughter.

The script is promising, with well-realized characters and a believable situation. Sometimes, elements of conversation can be dragged out a little too long, but for the most part, this is a thought-provoking, interesting play. The playwright also does an excellent job at creating the “world” here, and establishing characters who never actually appear on stage but are still essential to the story and easy for the audience to imagine. The cast especially makes this production work, though, led by Palazzola in an affecting, sometimes explosive performance as the conflicted, skeptical Ellie. Cockerham as the more reserved but still emotionally devastated Jane is also excellent, as is Davis in a memorable performance as the talkative Kim. In fact, Davis’s scene with Palazzola is perhaps the strongest section of the play, even though the performances are strong all around.

The .Zack is an intersting space. It’s a good venue, but there are some visibility issues with the way it’s normally set up, considering the high stage and the two enormous pillars that can interfere with sight lines. With Cold, Tesseract has minimized some of those issues by staging the production facing the opposite direction than what is usual for the space, with the “stage” set up on the floor and the audience facing away from the traditional stage. The set, by Brittanie Gunn and Katie Palazzola, is an authentic, easily recognizable representation of a hospital waiting room, with several features that especially add to the drama of the production, including a window looking on a hallway, allowing the audience to see characters about to enter the room, or after they leave. There’s also a prominent digital clock that ticks away the time, adding to the suspense of the situation. There’s also excellent work from lighting designer Kevin Bowman and sound designer Mark Kelly.

Cold is an intriguing, emotionally and philosophically challenging play with an interesting concept, although the dialogue could use a little bit of condensing. Unfortunately, this play has already closed, since I wasn’t able to attend until the last weekend of performances. Still, it’s an intriguing production with an excellent cast, and I’m glad I was able to see it.




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