Since death alone is certain and the time of death uncertain, what should I do? — Buddhist koan
In a darkened room, a young man in a black suit runs his finger across a lampshade. On the coffee table is a bottle of whisky and three half-finished drinks. Dead flowers slump in a vase. Light shines in a window, casting a diagonal grid of shadows on the wall. His two brothers soon join him, and we quickly learn the tragic details of their parents’ death. They are just back from the funeral, but at least they have each other, right? Not so fast — this is Matthew Gasda’s newest play, By Morning, and things are about to get a whole lot more complicated. The actors playing brothers Logan (Michael Johnson), Gabriel (Charlie Munn), and Dylan (Tad D’Agostino) — joined by family friend, Iris (Maeve Crispi) — have their work cut out for them in their tense, emotionally wrought roles. Their characters’ conflicts with each other and their contradictory natures allow us a fascinating window into the complexity not only of family relationships (and how we are shaped by them), but also into one of the most taboo, yet most important subjects in our society: death. Death. There, I said it. Am I making you uncomfortable? This play is certain to make you squirm as it looks at familial wounds and buried secrets from each of the four characters’ different vantage points. All the while the subtext is death. We are all going to die, so how should we live, knowing that it is all ultimately meaningless? But wait a minute, perhaps I should have said ultimately meaningful? How should we grieve? Can we grieve? How do we love? Can we love? Can seemingly irreparable relationships be saved? These are the thoughts that have stayed with me since I saw the play last night. With terrific performances by all — and brilliant set and lighting design — the cast and creative team have crafted the perfect crucible for us to explore these important themes — and ultimately — perhaps learn more about ourselves.