Redtwist Theatre. By Cathy Earnest. Directed by Ian Frank. With Jacqueline Grandt, Jan Ellen Graves, Justin Burns, Annie Prichard, Michael Sherwin. Running time: 2hrs; one intermission.
Theater review by Kevin Thomas
You might expect Another Bone to be a macabre psychological play, or scathing political allegory, what with a 9/11 widow (five years after and happily remarried) suddenly receiving the bones of her firefighter husband, one by one, in the mail as they are discovered in the wreckage.
Instead it’s quite the opposite: a clean, geometric show with comforting right angles. The set at Redtwist Theatre mimics architectural drawings, down to the soft white and blue hues. It suits Cathy Earnest’s writing, which draws a straight line to the emotions and matters at hand.
The opening monologue is shared between Marie (Jacqueline Grandt) and her best friend Rhonda (Jan Ellen Graves). Marie wrestled with loss, with nothing to bury, and with the staggering amount of money that poured into her bank account. She grieved, got better, remarried, and lives happily. Rhonda is also a firefighter widow; yet her husband survived 9/11 to perish in a house fire a year later. Loss, a body to lay to rest, and no money. Seemingly content, but not remarried.
The dialogue is crisp, the acting is on point. The slow arrival of the bones rekindles the elemental, visceral love Marie had for her deceased husband, but they find their place in the play’s framework very quickly. Add bones, create grief, some drama may follow.
It’s the entry of a much younger 9/11 widow, Stephanie (Annie Prichard), that provides the play not only with much-needed weirdness but also its knockout performance. She appears at Marie’s door clutching a femur, claiming an error swapped her husband’s bone with Marie’s. Prichard makes her character resist definition; her twitches and rushed speech mask a confident, insistent personality that forces itself upon Marie’s home. And despite her passion and babbling stories, Prichard keeps something hidden away; Stephanie remains vague despite all details, and the tension of the play anchors on the uncertainty of her purpose. She resists easy definition, except as a new friend who romanticizes Marie’s suffering all over again and encourages her growing obsession with the bones.
But the focus remains mostly on those bones, while the human drama is continuously delayed. Its arrival is passionately executed, but comes late and lacks viciousness. It feels as if all the difficulties in the play have to come all at once and be resolved just as rapidly. And Stephanie, as our one mystery, is not given enough time, and then rushed to a conclusion that fails to explore those mysteries more fully—a shame given the power of the character.
I couldn’t shake the feeling that Another Bone should have made me uncomfortable, and it does not. It contrasts national heroes and forgotten servicemen, explores the intimate relationship with remains. It successfully portrays the impossible importance placed on certain deaths in small, human portions: the husband to a 9/11 widow, the jealous best friend, the beautiful space paid for with money from a grieving nation. Yet it’s not nearly ugly enough. The knife just doesn’t twist, and things remain too cleanly arranged in space to ever feel like they’re falling apart.
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