Honest Pint Theatre Company shows humanity at its worst and best in the regional premiere of Sharr White’s “Annapurna.” Two broken souls attempt to mend their lives in this moving and often quite funny production.
In a dilapidated mountain trailer, Ulysses is living off the grid, his former days as a respected poet ruined by alcoholism. Now he’s dying of lung disease.
Emma, his former wife, suddenly shows up, having left him in the middle of the night 20 years earlier after a devastating incident, taking their 5-year-old son Sam along. She’s come because Sam has just found the letters Ulysses sent him over the years, which had been hidden from him. Ulysses’ eloquent sentiments have spurred Sam to seek him out and blame Emma for their long separation.
Emma is having her own crisis. She’s left her current husband, whom she’s never loved as she did Ulysses. Emma ends up staying over, attempting to organize the trailer and Ulysses for Sam’s arrival. All the old contentions and hurts return, but also the former affection and real connection between them.
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David Henderson gives one of his finest portrayals as Ulysses, by turns irascible, pitiable, belligerent and sensitive. He’s hilarious in Ulysses’ witty outbursts and gripping in his unfathomable sorrows. Henderson commands attention at every moment, filling in each pause with rich characterization.
Susannah Hough excels at Emma’s many moments of hesitation, frustration and anger as she battles her feelings for Ulysses while cleaning up Miyuki Su’s messily realistic set. Hough was still perfecting some of the bigger emotional transitions at Friday’s opening, but her portrayal was especially affecting at play’s end.
Director Dana Marks allows the actors time to play with nuanced honesty, sometimes threatening to slow down momentum but keeping the audience silently rapt – when not laughing uproariously – throughout the 90-minute one-act. There’s harsh language and sexual content but the actors make it all work naturally.
The script’s main flaw is the continual tease of what really happened when Emma left, artificially stretching out the path to the climax. But the play succeeds in astutely mirroring the human flaws that threaten relationships.
What: “Annapurna,” presented by Honest Pint Theatre Company
Where: North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, 7713-51 Lead Mine Road, Raleigh
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 28-29 and Sept. 4-5; 3 p.m. Aug. 30 and Sept. 6
Info: 919-866-0228 or nract.org