A pregnant woman disappears in a small Ohio town on Christmas Eve, and guides us through her life and death.
Part mystery, part elegy, this melancholy new drama from Melissa Ross (Thinner Than Water) starts with narrator Annabel (Cyd Blakewell) telling us she's speaking from the afterlife. The rest of Ross's first act gives us flickers of insight into how she died, while Act II looks back through windows into some of the defining, happy moments of Annabel's life.
Annabel, we learn early on, was eight months pregnant when she was killed, and Act I flashes through the investigation into her disappearance, strongly suggesting—though never confirming—that it was her philandering husband (Jay Worthington, creepily unctuous) who did the deed. Her death becomes one of those stories of pretty, small-town white women who become tabloid fodder; "I was on the cover of People magazine twice," she tells us at one point. After the intermission, though, Annabel resets the clock to show us the good times.
The Gift Theatre's ensemble, directed by John Gawlik and led by Blakewell's affecting, engagingly off-kilter delivery, sells the central everyperson premise with gusto: None of us is ever more than a single bad decision away from becoming a headline. Annabel's life, despite its tragically early end, was one that was not extraordinary but extra ordinary. Cherish, then, the ordinary good times.
The Gift Theatre. By Melissa Ross. Directed by John Gawlik. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 5mins; one intermission.