Monday, January 30, 2012

Review: Secrets in the Woods

Every family has secrets. It’s reality. And it’s also the key ingredient when making a family drama. Daniel Talbott’s wonderfully heart-numbing new play Yosemite has a big secret, but these siblings are doing everything in their power to bury it. Literally.
Yosemite follows three siblings, Jake, Ruby, and Jer, played with ease by Seth Numrich, Libby Woodbridge, and Noah Galvin respectively, as they journey to a secluded area of the wintery woods behind their trailer. Almost immediately we know what’s inside the garbage bag Ruby holds just by the way she holds it. But the true mystery is what happened. The siblings in Yosemite aren’t quite “trailer trash” but they also don’t live the life of luxury, which is part of the reason why their secret needed to be buried. The majority of the play Numrich’s Jake is at verbal odds with Woodbridge’s Ruby, yelling and getting down on her for nearly anything that comes out of her mouth, but deep down, Jake is the parental figure for both Ruby and Jer. And of course, the anger comes out because the situation isn’t quite ideal. Jake wants what’s best for his siblings and will whatever it takes for them to escape the life they’re trapped in. The big secret is ultimately revealed when Julie, played by stunning Kathryn Erbe, the mother, tracks her kids down wanting to know what’s taking them so long. She does her best to be a mother, but in the end, she’s lost in herself. Julie does nothing but antagonize Jake while attempting to nurture Ruby and Jer. Unfortunately, Jake gets the final word against Julie who leaves Jake to his duties.
The beauty of the acting in Yosemite comes in the silence. In the moments of limited dialogue, the trio is captivating. You watch their every move, from Numrich’s digging to Woodbridge’s shivering to Galvin’s stick snapping. Director Pedro Pascal guides the actors to make the most in the silence and with Talbott’s great script. Woodbridge is quite strong as Ruby and does a tremendous job playing off of the sensational Seth Numrich. Janie Bullard’s wonderful ambience of sound helps define the landscape that scenic designer Raul Abrego has created. The design is specific down to every last detail. Even Tristan Raines’s costumes are wonderfully detailed oriented. His mismatched hand-me-down winter wear defines the down and out status of the family in every detail, including a piece of duct tape on Ruby’s boot.
The only trouble I had with Yosemite was something little, but ultimately huge. When Julie enters, she enters with a gun. She holds the gun a bit clumsily, stands it against a tree, and then it just sits. And sits. And sits. Until Julie leaves with it. When bringing a weapon into audience view, there should be a real defined reason. And for the majority of the play, it was just there and I sat waiting for something to happen with it. At the end of the play, there is an off stage action for it. Hence the reason for the gun. I almost wished we never saw the gun, or had that final moment. End the play on a more ambiguous note.
But gun or not, Yosemite leaves you numb. You leave wanting to give someone you love a hug. Yosemite is not to be missed.