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The Women of Lockerbie
by Deborah Brevoort
Directed by Pamela Reckamp
SATE Ensemble Theatre
November 7, 2019

David Wassilak, Margeau Baue Steinau, Sarajane Alverson, Leslie Wobbe, Kim Furlow, Jennifer Theby-Quinn
Photo by Joey Rumpell
SATE Ensemble Theatre

SATE Ensemble Theatre is continuing its tradition of thoughtful, thought-provoking and inventive theatrical productions with a soul-wrenching, poetic presentation of Deborah Brevoort’s play, The Women of Lockerbie. Told in the style of a Greek tragedy, this show looks at grief–both personal and corporate–from many angles, infusing a musical sensibility throughout. At SATE, the production is characterized by powerful performances and a strong sense of time, place, and mood. It’s at once something you might expect and something entirely new, and it’s riveting from start to finish.

The story is fairly simple, although the way it is told explores many of the complexities involved. Lockerbie, Scotland is the setting, seven years after the terrible tragedy that made the previously obscure town a household name–the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103. Here, the action begins at night in December 1995, on the anniversary of the crash. After an evening memorial service, we meet an American couple, Madeline (Margeau Baue Steinau) and Bill Livingston (David Wassilak), who lost their 20-year-old son, Adam, in the disaster. Adam’s remains haven’t been recovered, so Madeleine is roaming the hills in a futile search for some tangible sign of her son, while Bill urges her to give up the search and move on with her life. Soon, they are followed by a contingent of women from the town, led by Olive Allison (Leslie Wobbe), who has been leading an effort to get the clothes of the crash victims released to the women of the town, so they can wash them and return them to the victims’ families. They have pleaded their case to American official George Jones (Michael Cassidy Flynn), who has already declared his intention to have the clothes destroyed, but the women, including Olive, warehouse cleaning woman Hattie (Teresa Doggett), and others represented by a “Greek Chorus” symbolizing Intellect (Sarajne Alverson), Emotion (Kim Furlow), and Memory (Jennifer Theby-Quinn), will not give up their mission. This is the basic premise, but there’s a lot going on here, as the various aspects of grief are explored through the stories of each of the characters, and the Livingstons deal with how the whole situation has effected their relationship. It’s a highly personal, poetic tale that carries a heavy emotional weight, although not without rays of hope, even literally at times due to Bess Moynihan’s richly evocative lighting. There are some songs here, too, well sung by the cast, but even in the spoken moments the show takes the tone of a song of lament, deeply emotional and profound.

In addition to the excellent lighting, the physical presentation of the production is also excellent, starting with Moynihan’s highly symbolic set in which the landscape appears to be made mostly of clothes.  The costumes by Liz Henning, sound design by Ellie Schwetye, and props by Rachel Tibbetts also contribute well to overall atmosphere and tone of the production. Director Pamela Reckamp has paced the production with the right balance of energy and stillness, as well, lending an urgency at times and a sense of clear, emotional reflection when needed.

The cast of eight performers is uniformly superb. The haunting “Greek Chorus” of Alverson, Furlow, and Theby-Quinn provides a lot of the reflective, emotive sensibility of the piece, and Flynn communicates a sense of humanity in his portrayal of Jones, who is essentially the “villain” of the piece. Doggett as Hattie provides some of the needed lighter moments of the show, as well as a strong sense of determination. The emotional center of the show, however, belongs to the brilliant Wobbe as Olive, who is more complex than she first appears, as well as the excellent Steinau and Wassilak as the Livingstons, who each have their own journey of grief to navigate, separately and together. There’s strong chemistry throughout the ensemble, and a real sense of community and corporate grief and the constant drive for healing. It’s a remarkable ensemble, without a single weak link.

What else can I say in conclusion, other than that SATE has done it again. This company consistently produces the highest quality of theatre, and The Women of Lockerbie is the latest example. Bearing in mind that the subject matter is heavy and deals with the loss of loved ones and personal stories of grief, this is a highly emotional, thoughtful production featuring a first-rate cast, and a must-see theatrical experience.

Teresa Doggett, Leslie Wobbe, Sarajane Alverson, Kim Furlow, Jennifer Theby-Quinn, David Wassilak, Michael Cassidy Flynn
Photo by Joey Rumpell
SATE Ensemble Theatre

SATE Ensemble Theatre is presenting The Women of Lockerbie at The Chapel until 23, 2019

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