Things aren’t always what they seem

How well does anyone know the person they marry?

It’s the central question in the latest play from Readers Theatre +, “Retreat from Moscow,” a tale about a grown man, Jamie, caught in the middle of his parents’ divorce.

Jamie’s parents, Edward and Alice, have been married for more than three decades, in what seems to outsiders to be the perfect marriage. Alice is an observant Catholic, Edward a teacher at an all-boys Catholic school and their lives seem pristine until Jamie visits one weekend and Edward announces he has met another woman.

“The three of them are bantering back and forth a lot,” said director Charlotte McElroy.

In order to prepare the Broadway play for Readers Theatre +, McElroy had to do some reworking. Since the organization does not use stage direction or have elaborate sets — instead actors read the parts from books — McElroy said she had to add a narrator to guide the audience from scene to scene.

Cast members Jim Dries, who plays restless Edward, and real-life wife Carol Swarbrick Dries, who plays Alice, brought the idea of doing the play to Readers Theatre + after seeing it on Broadway in New York.

“We loved it when we saw it,” said Swarbrick Dries. “It eloquently presents the isolation of a person being dismissed from a long-term relationship.”

The title comes from Edward’s newfound love of reading about Napoleon’s costly 1812 invasion and ensuing retreat from Moscow, Russia. The move cost Napoleon almost all of his 450,000-person army, many of whom died of starvation and disease during the lengthy retreat.

“A lot of the people who could have been saved may not have been,” Dries explained. “(The playwright) uses it as a parallel to someone in a divorce situation … it’s survival of the fittest.”

As with each of their plays, Readers Theatre + is donating the proceeds from the production to a peninsula-area cause — this time they chose Habitat for Humanity.

“We try to help a group one time per season,” Dries said. “There are plenty of organizations in the area. We try to help as many as we can.”

Swarbrick Dries said she encourages everyone to attend the play, which she promised is significant and relevant to everyone.

“It’s a challenging drama,” Swarbrick Dries said. “It’s a story I think every adult can relate to.”

Retreat: Shawn Dawson, Jim Dries and Carol Swarbrick Dries pose, in character, for a grim family picture.

Photo by Avani Nadkarni

Who: Readers Theatre +

What: “Retreat from Moscow” written by William Nicholson and directed by Charlotte McElroy

When: 7:30 p.m. on May 16, 17; 2 p.m. on May 17, 18

Where: Dungeness Schoolhouse, 2781 Towne Road; except May 18 is at the Port Angeles Senior Community Center, 328 E. Seventh St. in Port Angeles

Tickets: $10 suggested donation at the door, proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity Clallam County

From their last performance of “The Women,” Readers Theatre + collected $1,171 to donate to Parenting Matters. In a letter to director Charlotte McElroy, Parenting Matters Foundation president Cynthia Martin said the money will go to books for children from birth to high-school age, parents and supplies for the First Teacher program.

“None of this would be available without this contribution from your group,” Martin wrote.

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