PTC mounts Graham’s The Outgoing Tide

The Outgoing Tide by Bruce Graham, directed by James J. Christy, Philadelphia Theatre Company at Suzanne Roberts Theatre, March 28-April 22, 2012, Review of March 28 for WRTI, 90.1 fm.

During one of his lucid moments from Alzheimer’s, Gunner, the indefatigable hero of Bruce Gunner’s The Outgoing Tide, announces he is not going to spend the last days of his life in assisted living let alone in diapers. He has a plan. Gunner, a retired trucker and Philadelphia Teamster is a braggart, a bully and likeable for all the warts and wonders of Richard Poe’s brilliant portrayal.

Graham’s new play produced by The Philadelphia Theatre Company, takes a look at a grim subject with the playwright’s customary working class wit. A family tries to come to grips with Alzheimers’s and the mistakes parents have made with their only child. Son Jack, played by Anthony Lawton may be the The Outgoing Tide’s least realized character, though as the gifted Lawton plays him there are many layers. Jack is sensitive, gifted, the son who can’t measure up to the dominant Gunner and who’s been misinformed and mollycoddled by mother.

Jack at his father’s request visits Gunner, who doesn’t recognize him and tells awful tales about this son, the chef. He’s unaware Jack’s given up his restaurant- we are never told why.  Gunner had said “Don’t tell your mother”  when he invited Jack to come. Jack’s spent his life keeping secrets from one parent or the other.  His mother Peg, who wants to put Gunner in a home, is also requesting Gunner not be told things, and so the schemes and secrets will accrue

The Outgoing Tide is funny and it’s poignant. Credit Graham’s  writing, credit the acting, credit long-time Graham collaborator James Christy’s direction. Robin Mosely who plays Gunner’s wife is a pistol as the obstinate Peg, once meek, now sure, now vulnerable about the man who hugely irritates her (and whom she deeply loves.)

The exterior of desginer David Gordon’s Chesapeake cottage is almost too magazine perfect for these people but the interiors are just right. R. Lee Kennedy’s lighting is sublime….Tough truths on stage at the Suzanne Roberts through April 22 with The Outgoing Tide.

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