THEATER REVIEW: ‘Salvage’ at None Too Fragile by Roy Berko

Through Sat 5/20

As the lights come up on George Brant’s Salvage, being performed on none too fragile’s tiny thrust stage, two women frantically search through a huge pile of boxes. The boxes contain the remnants of the life of Danny Aspern, their son and brother, who recently died in a car-bike accident and was buried earlier in the day.

A storm is coming, with promises of mass flooding. Assuming that their basement will be inundated by water, the question is what of hoarder Danny’s “treasures” should they save? There are 40 years of stuff as the man/boy never moved out of his mother’s house and used the basement as his play and storage room.

As the duo decides that they will save only a small number of Danny’s favorite music albums, Amanda Graham (Derdriu Ring) enters. Amanda, Danny’s high school sweetheart, left him supposedly to go to college. Her leaving left a void in the seemingly emotionally weak Danny that was never filled. He went through the rest of his hapless life rudderless, frustrated and unfulfilled.

Mother Roberta (DeDe Klein) and Amanda spar. It quickly becomes apparent that both Danny and his younger sister Kelly (Kelly Strand) were victims of their mother passing on her insecurities to them. A mother, much in the vein of Amanda in Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie, cannot see that her enabling is the major cause of her children’s issues.

Amanda has written a best-selling book with a plot centering on her relationship with Danny. Roberta hates her for “using” Danny. Kelly is awestruck by Amanda’s success.

Filled with deception and verbal game playing, the compelling play storms to a surprise conclusion, as Amanda’s “secret,” the real reason for her coming to Danny’s funeral, Kelly’s future and a major decision by Roberta consume the trio. Questions abound: What effect do we have on others? What is the difference between love and need? Can anything be salvaged from these lives?

Brant is a fine playwright. Among others, he was awarded a Lucille Lortel Award, an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award, the David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award from the Kennedy Center, the Keene Prize for Literature, and a Scotsman Fringe First Award. His scripts have been produced locally at Cleveland Play House and Dobama Theatre. Salvage was commissioned by Theatre 4 in New Haven, Connecticut, and received its premiere there.

The none too fragile production, as has become the expected habit at this Akron-based theater, continues its reputation for excellence. None too fragile was recognized by Broadwayworld.com/Cleveland as the outstanding non-musical production of 2016, Director Sean Derry was named the best director of a non-musical, and Derdriu Ring was named as co-recipient of the outstanding female performer. The Cleveland Critics Circle recognized The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Ring for Superior Achievement. Salvage should also receive such accolades.

The cast is universally outstanding. Each actress develops a clear and textured real living character. So much so that after a while, the play becomes a life experience, with the audience peeking in on the real lives of three tortured women in turmoil.   The performers make Brant’s realistic language live with vivid imagery.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: Salvage continues none-too-fragile’s history of outstanding theatrical presentations as it takes George Brant’s well-crafted script from page to stage, with clarity and vividness. This is a must see experience! Believe me, Clevelanders, it’s worth the drive!

For tickets to Salvagewhich runs through Sat 5/20, call 330-962-5547 or go to nonetoofragile.com.

[Written by Roy Berko, member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle]

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