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Salt, Root, and Roe
by Tim Price
Directed by Kenn McGlaughlin
Upstream Theater
April 26, 2019

Amy Loui, Donna Weinsting, Sally Edmundson
Photo by ProPhotoSTL.com
Upstream Theater

Upstream Theater has taken audiences on theatrical trips to various places around the world through its productions, from Australia to England to Germany and beyond. The company’s latest production heads to Wales, with Welsh playwright Tim Price’s Salt, Root, and Roe. It’s an atmospheric piece and vivid portrayal of characters, with a lyrical tone and serious subject matter, as its characters deal with memory, mortality, old attachments, and more. At Upstream, this play is given a compelling treatment with a strong cast and great production values.

The setting here is Pembrokeshire, in southwestern Wales, where elderly twin sisters Iola (Donna Weinsting) and Arnest (Sally Edmonston) grew up. The play begins as Arnest’s daughter Menna (Amy Loui) has returned to the old seaside cottage prompted by a “goodbye” letter from her Aunt Iola, frantic to find Iola and stop her from doing anything drastic, but fearing she might be too late. As Menna and her childhood friend and possible former love interest, police officer Gareth (Eric Hyde White), discuss plans and dread what may have happened, the sisters arrive at the cottage, surprised to see Menna there. That’s only the beginning. From there, the story gradually unfolds and more details are revealed about all four characters and their situations, which are a lot more complicated than they first appear. The structure is more or less linear, although there are non-linear elements and breaks from continuity for poetic musings and reminiscences from the sisters. The Welsh setting, culture, and language are essential elements of the story. I won’t give away too much, except to say some of the subject matter here is especially intense and may be difficult for some viewers, as it deals heavily with the subjects of aging, dementia, and mortality.

The setting is well depicted in this production. Scenic designer Michael Heil has transformed the small black box space at the Kranzberg Arts Center into a vividly realized representation of a seaside cottage and its surroundings. Lighting designer Steve Carmichael and props designer Rachel Tibbetts, along with scenic artist Lucy Garlich also contribute impressively to the overall mood of the production. Michele Friedman Siler’s costumes are also excellent, suiting the characters especially well.

The characterizations here are particularly strong, despite an inconsistency with the accents. As the sisters, Weinsting and Edmonson display excellent chemistry and a thouroughly believable bond. There’s a real sense of history, and mutual dependence, in their relationship. Weinsting in particular is a standout for the sheer range of emotions in her portrayal, as Iola struggles to retain a sense of herself as her memory is rapidly fading. Loui, as the protective, world-weary Menna, is also excellent, and White lends fine support as the loyal friend Gareth. It’s a strong ensemble that brings a real sense of poignancy and heart to the already poignant script.

Salt, Root, and Roe is a play that’s sure to provoke a lot of thought and discussion, especially in terms of some of the characters’ choices, but also in questions of mortality that are inherent to the human condition regardless of particular situations. The Welsh setting lends a lyrical air to the production, as well. It’s another memorable production from Upstream Theater.

Amy Loui, Eric Dean White
Photo by ProPhotoSTL.com
Upstream Theater

Upstream Theater is presenting Salt, Root, and Roe at the Kranzberg Arts Center until May 12, 2019

 

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