The first of playwright and actor Cecilia Fairchild’s two one-act plays is Family Tradition. The piece centers on Joan (Claudia Elmore) – an Oklahoma native living in LA – and her relationship with her dead father whose spirit keeps haunting her. It’s a darkly poetic tale of alcohol and abuse, and how blood binds us – sometimes against our will. Darrett Sanders deftly portrays the alcoholic father Leon with such pain and anguish that it’s difficult not to sympathize with this irredeemable man. Likewise, Elmore gives a nuanced performance as Joan, the daughter who hates her father for what he’s done to her, and yet cannot cast out his spirit.
Overall the piece could be tightened, and could use to incorporate comic relief as it’s a bit too heavy to withstand for too long. Director Sam Bianchini brings a dynamic theatricality to the staging, emphasizing the play’s theme of how we can’t escape our pasts, no matter how hard we may try.
The second piece, Best of my Love, is similar in theme but different in style and tone. Childhood sweethearts who’ve been divorced for 10 years meet again at a funeral. Tyler (James Bane) was a star athlete turned alcoholic. Florence (Fairchild) realized their relationship wasn’t going anywhere and left him. A gulf of pain opens between them, and things that have gone unsaid now burst forth.
This piece lacks the theatricality and poetry of Family Tradition, and the staging is somewhat static. Numerous times the former lovers go to leave, but never fully commit to leaving. I wondered why they kept staying.
Fairchild does well to portray Florence’s frustration and headstrong personality. Bane is less believable as he’s somewhat wooden and doesn’t bring the layers of their past to life.