Louise will not win many awards for Miss Congeniality. Receiving an unexpected visit from her college-age daughter and the daughter’s beau, she graciously offers them a beverage. “I’m afraid I have no fresh leaves,” she says with a tight-lipped smile. “I hope an old tea bag in cold water will be agreeable to you.” The tea bag’s stale, but Sheila Callaghan’s Crawl, Fade to White isn’t. Produced by 13P, the play concerns fractious interactions between Louise (Carla Harting), lost lover Niko (Shawtane Monroe Bowen), daughter April (Jocelyn Kuritsky), April’s tea-slurping boyfriend Nolan (Matthew roi Berger), and their next-door neighbors. Niko abandons a teenaged Louise before their daughter’s birth; Louise distances herself from a grown April; Nolan threatens both women with betrayal.
Callaghan is a sensuous writer, interested in texture, sound, shape, and even the taste of a moldering tea bag. In this play, as in Dead City and Crumble, she also demonstrates an abiding curiosity about female experience—still strangely rare on our stages. But in Crawl, all the marvelous details and poignant characters don’t resolve into drama. Callaghan and director Paul Willis tantalize with little mysteries and intrigues, yet never focus long enough on any relationship or situation to provide emotional engagement. Though muted in tone, the play has a hurried feel, ever rushing to the next scene or speech or stage picture. If Callaghan and Willis would allow these images to steep, we might more readily drink them in.