Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Nora Theatre Company Presents The Thought-Provoking "The Midvale High School Fiftieth Reunion" by Alan Brody

I first became familiar with Alan Brody's writing when I saw the stunning production of "Operation Epsilon" in 2013. A Professor Emeritus at MIT, Brody bring to his playwriting a refreshing combination of intellectual vigor and deep understanding of the human condition. In this play, we follow the adventures and misadventures of Tom Terres (Gordon Clapp) and Bettina Belknap (Debra Wise) as they reluctantly attend their 50th high school reunion. They have each come alone, Bettina recently widowed, and Tom's wife having fled a number of years ago.

Using pantomime of conversations with other attendees and classmates, the playwright reveals a great deal about Tom and Bettina, and spotlights the insipidness of surface conversations that occur at such events, He also explores the nature of memory, longing, loneliness, the never-ending search for love, and the deep-seated desire to be seen and known by another. This theme of being seen reminded me of the epic film "Avatar." In this film, characters who love one another verbalize their love by saying "I see you." In "The Midvale High School Fiftieth Reunion," there is a poignant scene near the end of the play when Tom and Bettina, who had not real known one another in high school, sit and look into one another's eyes for several minutes without saying a word. We see love begin to bloom as they truly begin to see each other in that precious moment.

Fans of the classic TV show, "NYPD Blue" will recognize Mr. Clapp as Detective Greg Medavoy. As Tom, he is perfect in portraying a man who always kept his head down, hoping not to be noticed. His one love in life is books. He owns a small bookstore in a college town in Maine. He is shy and socially awkward, but manages to make a growing connection with Bettina, a neuroscientist who explains in detail to Tom how memory works. Ms. Wise is both confident and vulnerable as Bettina. Throughout the play, Tom and Bettina each experience three flashbacks that give exposition to some of their backstories. Matthew Zahnzinger and Sarah Elizabeth Bedard are excellent in playing multiple roles as they interact with younger versions of Tom and Bettina. One theme that emerges from Bettina's flashbacks is the steep price she had to pay as a female trying to break into the world of hard science - overcoming admission biases and glass ceilings, and sacrificing time and passion as a wife and mother. Director Lee Mikeska Gardner uses these four talented actors wisely, and frees them to create the kind of chemistry the playwright envisioned.

Debra Wise as Bettina
Gordon Clapp as Tom
"The Midvale High School Fiftieth Reunion"
by Alan Brody
The Nora Theatre Company
Central Square Theater
Through July 2nd
Photo Courtesy of A.R. Sinclair/Central Square Theater

Mr. Brody uses dance as a metaphor in this play. Tom and Bettina are coaxed into competing as dancers for the title of King and Queen of the reunion. Their entire evening of interaction has been one of dancing gingerly around the awkwardness of getting to know - and to see - one whose face is familiar, but who has been a stranger. It is a poignant, evocative and moving play that should be seen. It will run through July 2nd.

Scenic Design is by Steven Royal, Costumes by Chelsea Kerl, Lighting by John Malinowski, Sound by Nathan Leigh, and Choreography by Marlena Yanetti and Felton Sparks.

Central Square Theater Website



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