How well do we ever really know the people we love? That’s the core question in Adrienne Earle Pender’s affecting new drama, “Somewhere in Between.” Theatre in the Park’s fine production also strongly registers Pender’s additional explorations of what we do in the name of love and how we grieve over its loss.
The play focuses on McKenna, whose husband, Marcus, has died suddenly. Now she’s just learned she’s pregnant. McKenna’s older brother, Jackson, and her best friend, Stacey, urge her not to contest ownership of the house because Marcus never signed it over to her. Denise, Marcus’ sister, arrives to claim her brother’s things and coldly tells McKenna to leave. In the meantime, Andrew, identifying himself as Marcus’ longtime friend, asks to meet with McKenna.
From this setup, Pender cleverly portions out revelation after revelation, causing the audience continually to adjust its perception of the situation. To comment on the performances and themes further, some of these surprises must be disclosed.
McKenna is white and Marcus was black. Denise has never accepted McKenna and now wants her completely erased from the family. During one of their icy confrontations, McKenna mentions Andrew’s impending visit, visibly shaking Denise. After Andrew arrives, he initially avoids McKenna’s questions about how he knew Marcus. When the true nature of their relationship comes out, McKenna must deal with a completely different view of her husband.
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Despite repetitive dialog that deflates some of the tension, Pender’s grasp of character and emotion in these circumstances is assured and intelligent. Director Maggie Rasnick elicts engaging performances and moves her cast naturally over Carol Winstead Wood’s lovely, inviting set.
Brenda Lo beams warm humor and caring as Stacey, while Chris Milner makes us understand Jackson’s urges to protect his sister. As Denise, Hazel S. Edmond sears the stage with contempt, making a moving transition in the second act.
As Andrew, Bryon Jennings II expertly exhibits his conflicted feelings toward McKenna and his ultimate acceptance of their shared grief. Page Purgar sympathetically portrays McKenna’s ongoing bewilderment at her constantly changing world and gives the character believable humor.
At Saturday’s performance, the atmosphere seemed too relaxed for maximum impact of the script’s gripping drama, but the production left the audience much to ponder.