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Falling: A Wake at Rivendell Ensemble Theatre | Theater review

An airline disaster precipitates a rural couple’s gaining closure on their own catastrophe.
Photo: courtesy of Rivendell Theatre Ensemble Falling: A Wake at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
By Oliver Sava |

A plane explodes over rural Canada on a starry autumn night, raining debris on the home of a couple struggling with their own personal catastrophe. When a seat carrying a dead boy lands on the lawn belonging to Harold (Mark Ulrich) and Elsie (Jane Baxter Miller), memories of their disappeared son resurface. As they wait for the authorities to arrive, Harold and Elsie hold two wakes in Gary Kirkham’s 2007 drama, learning to say good-bye to the boy they loved through a boy they never knew.

The first production in Rivendell’s cozy new Edgewater location, Falling: A Wake’s non-descript setting allows the design team to stretch its imaginations. Linda Buchanen provides a simple yet striking set design; the forced perspective of the stage works with the star lights in the walls and ceiling to create the illusion of a much more expansive space. Director Victoria DeIorio’s sound design makes excellent use of the theater’s booming sound system for the storm of debris, and she effectively uses audio to create an image that would be difficult to capture onstage.

Much of the play consists of Elsie sharing her story with the dead boy (Will Crouse), while Miller smoothly navigates exposition-heavy monologues. Elsie hides her grief under humor; her banter with her spouse prevents the play from getting maudlin. The strength of their relationships with each other and their absent son keeps the story grounded in reality, even as it heads to its overly convenient conclusion.

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