Readers Theatre finds light in ‘The Shadow Box’

Actors say play reflects on living full life

Through to the end, Readers Theatre Plus’ actors feel people will connect with their production of “The Shadow Box.”


Local director Pat Owens stages six shows of the Tony-Award-winning play by Michael Cristofer on April 19-21 and 26-28 at the Old Dungeness Schoolhouse, 2781 Towne Road, Sequim.


Owens last performed in a version of the show in Spokane several years ago and has wanted to direct the play ever since.


“It’s as real life and uplifting a show of death as you can think of,” he said. “It’s about how real people deal with death and something we’re all going to have to relate to at some point.”


Portions of the play center on three people dealing with terminal illness — Joe, Brian and Felicity.

Through a serious of interviews (conducted by actor Jim Dries) the patients share their stories.


The first patient, Joe, played by Ric Munhall, hasn’t seen his family in months during treatment. His wife Maggie (Debbie Leach) is in complete denial, Owens said, and their son Steve (James Simonson) is in the dark about his father’s situation.


Past conflicts inflame the situation between exes Brian, played by Roger Presley, and Beverly (Carol Swarbrick Dries).


Swarbrick Dries said Beverly still loves Brian but they can’t be married to each other.


Between them stands Brian’s new love interest, Mark, played by Michael Aldrich.


“She feels protective of Brian and fears that Mark will treat Brian just like she did,” Swarbrick Dries said.


“There is a debt she feels, but downsized because of this mask she wears.”


The final family features ailing Felicity, played by Barbara Drennan, and her daughter Agnes, Grace Yelland.


Owens said Felicity is blind, in a wheelchair, suffering from dementia and yearning for her absent daughter Claire.


“She has two daughters and Agnes has given up her own life to care for her own mother,” he said. “Claire left years ago and sends letters all the time to Agnes saying she’s on her way but never shows up.”


Swarbrick Dries finds the play to be a magnificent work of art.


“The characters are so clear and so honest and so real,” she said. “I saw it in New York City and I left the theater feing so fulfilled knowing this was so whole. It was complete theater.”


While the subject matter may seem depressing, those involved maintain the play deals with death in an uplifting way.


“The central theme is life,” Swarbrick Dries said. “The characters who are terminal detect the urgency of life and how that spreads to their loved ones.”


She said people will leave reassured.


“I think each individual is incredibly thought-provoking. Do we want to be a gerbil in a wheel and go round and around or do we want to try something different and live every day as if it’s our last?” she asked.


Tickets for the production are available at Pacific Mist Books for $15 (two for $25) and at the door. Sales benefit the Peninsula Friends of Animals.


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