All walks of life, according to Mary Gage, lead to the very same walkers. The Australian playwright interviewed six nursing home residents whose disconnected life stories she interlaces in her first American play. In
Evensong, each superannuated character recounts a life milestone (childhood tantrum, marriage, etc.) as the other actors help re-enact the memory. Standout performers from this versatile ensemble cast, directed by Lewis Magruder, include Arthur French as the genial Duke, a black Southerner who strives to own his own business and travel the world, and Cam Kornman as the feisty, wild-eyed Sue, the daughter and wife of alcoholics.
Clearly Gage is fascinated by her elderly subjects, the way they talk, and the things they obsess over, and she invites her audience to share her fascination through copious detail and ambitious stylization. Often characters echo each other’s peculiar colloquialisms, or simultaneously narrate separate memories whenever Gage sees thematic parallels between their stories. Such attempts to illustrate the universality of any given emotion or experience occasionally feel forced or unnecessary (especially when characters who can’t contribute to a particular theme are conspicuously silent for extended periods of time). Still, getting an American audience to care about six fogies they’d otherwise brush off is no mean feat in a culture where, well, old habits die hard.