Boldly immersive, WSAG holds space to maximize the power of its ritual and leaves generous room for catharsis in the theatergoer. From the earliest email communication requesting volunteers to act as nurses throughout the piece, to stage manager Christina Bryan’s seamlessly professional embodiment of Head Nurse, to the stark and extremely intimate staging, every element of WSAG is mindfully directed to create an experience that cannot merely be attended; it must be lived through. Hats off to lighting designer Brandon Baruch and composer David McKeever, whose soulful, understated lighting and music create a focused yet unobtrusive container for safe access to liminal space.
What I didn't like
The piece is so perfectly realized that there may be room to expand its healing power with a “counseling room,” “crying room,” or “chapel,” where audience members could retreat in private following the performance, and perhaps record an audio message to a lost or dying loved one.
My overall impression
“When Skies Are Gray” is more than theatre. It is a ritual for the most universal of human experiences: death. With deep care and unflinching bravery, Ashley Steed relives her mother’s final days in hospice mere feet before our eyes. Bone-deep performances by Steed and the astonishing Melissa Randel confront us with the primal anguish that is not only leaving this life, but leaving each other. By play’s end, we have no choice but to have lived through our own grief, fear, helplessness, and ultimately, longing for love and connection as deep as that which Ashley and her mother clearly share.