Within the confines of the relationship between older sister, Bex, played by Ellen Adair and younger sister Maggie (Sarah Killough) comes a twist on the concept of role reversal. In this case, the younger sister is more frazzled and uptight, taking on much of the responsibility, as the older sister takes a bit more of a laid-back approach when it comes to getting their mother’s affairs in order. Michael Selkirk plays their kindly, older father named Edgar who is trying his best to take care of his girls when his heart is breaking from losing the love of his life. He represents an authentic and lovable man who puts his family first and treasures the meaningful things in life such as having everyone together and building a home that everyone could come back to and enjoy. His dedication and true affection for his late wife are apparent, as he looks back at all she endured in the hospital — still wondering if he did everything he could have — despite being there every single day during that difficult time.
There is an incredible amount of tension between the sisters as they argue over who did more for their mother, and who made excuses when the time came for all of them to be home to help her. Maggie is a workaholic who often wonders if she is one step away from being a cat lady, and Bex is trying to keep her marital problems under wraps, as she flies home and makes excuses for her husband. It is only a matter of time before pressures explode and both women go at it — yelling, blaming each other, and withholding important pieces of information in order to spite the other. The acting is spot-on, as it accurately portrays the relationship of many sisters – with competition, jealousy, and dominance taking center stage in the quest for being the family gem. Their intensity and emotion really makes the storyline explode and challenges the audience to put themselves in their shoes — a place that we have all been at one time or another in life — and ask if we would have reacted any differently.
The buffer is neighbor and friend Sebastian (Craig Wesley Divino) who spent a lot of time with the girls’ mother toward the end. It is revealed that the family has known him for years, and Maggie’s shortness toward him implies a past crush or some facet of an earlier relationship between them, that she wishes to sweep under the rug. He is witty, charming, and allows the audience to get to know the matriarch of this family from an outside perspective.
Lighting designer Jennifer Wilcox fulfills an important role and perfectly times various items in the house, such as lamps and the record player going on and off at random moments, to signify the presence of the deceased. The sound designer, Jacob Subotnick, also uses an impressive strategy to offset various household items – such as music playing their mother’s favorite songs — at unpredictable times, to further imply their mother’s presence in the home, while continuing to spook out the sisters.
This play is a haunting reminder of what death can bring out for those still living. It brings out truths nobody wants to admit to, but also can be a source of healing and hope for the future. This play will leave audiences with much to think about, when it comes to dealing with family matters and forces us to take a good look in the mirror when it comes to the relationships that matter the most – and will be with us for the rest of our lives.
The Goodbye Room (through March 19, 2016)
Happy Few Theatre Company
The Bridge Theatre at Shetler Studios, 224 W. 54th Street, 12 Floor, between Broadway and 8th Avenue, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 917-251-7789 or visit https://www.artful.ly/store/events/8017
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission