By Daniel Skora
Expressions of grief can be as numerous and as varied as the individual person who is grieving. In “Too Much, Too Much, Too Many”, the current show at Williamston Theatre, the character Rose (Brenda Lane) has locked herself in her room and refuses to either come out or speak to anyone. Rose is grieving over the death of her husband James (David Daoust), who had drowned almost a year before. His death was especially painful for the family because his reoccurring bouts of dementia were like a series of little deaths that preceded his final one.
Rose is being cared for by her daughter Emma (Emily Sutton-Smith), who has put her own life on hold while she sees to her mother’s needs. Help has arrived from the local church in the person of Pastor Hidge (Aaron T. Moore), who is trying his best to get Rose to talk and come out of her room..
So begins a play that has much to say in so little time (running time is around seventy minutes) and four wanting characters to say it with. Rose (iron-willed yet fragile as played by Lane) sits in her room reading books and silently writing and rewriting her obituary. Pastor Hidge, whose own history of personal loss adds another dimension to the play, stands just outside the door to Rose’s room reading passages from the Bible. When the Good Book doesn’t produce the required results, he plays Go Fish with her, sliding the cards back and forth under the door. Emma spends a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking for Rose the food that will also be passed to her under the door. Per Rose’s request, Emma is also required to repeat daily the manner in which her husband’s body was found. James appears in flashbacks, the beloved father slowly but surely becoming a shell of himself as his mental capabilities recede into nothingness.
An essential sadness looms over the whole of playwright Meghan Kennedy’s play. Much of it has a dream-like quality where you just know that what’s going to happen is not going to be good and yet you are helpless to prevent it. Kennedy attempts to inject a ray of hope in the character of Pastor Ridge. His determination to help Rose is equaled by similar efforts to reconnect Emma with the world outside her home.
“Too Much, Too Much, Too Many” is an emotional story about love and loss that’s imaginatively told. Williamston’s production, directed by Tony Caselli, captures the tension of a once-vibrant family encapsulated by grief. There’s a kind of morbid eloquence to the whole affair and several surprises keep the play always interesting. The sparse set, (design by Elspeth Williams), mirrors the emptiness in the lives of Rose and Emma. The floor of the stage is done in a watery motif, a constant reminder of James’s death. The casting makes for a tight, unified ensemble. Sutton-Smith looks genuinely tired and distraught as the daughter who has spent long months caring for her mother while receiving no thanks for her sacrifice.
Daoust is sympathetic as the father while Moore provides the play’s strength as the pastor.
“Too Much, Too Much, Too Many” runs through February 28th. Tickets can be purchased Tuesday through Friday by calling 517.655.7469 or by visiting the Williamston box office. They can also be ordered online up to 24 hours prior to the performance by visiting www.williamstontheatre.org. Williamston Theatre is located at 122 S. Putnam Road in downtown Williamston. Take I-96 west and get off at Exit 117.