‘Still’: a Punchy Premiere for Renaissance Theaterworks’ Groundworks Program
Renaissance Theaterworks has made a name for itself by producing high-quality theater that prioritizes giving roles to women in all aspects of the creative process. In the past few years, the company has expanded its scope by creating feedback and staging opportunities for new plays by female playwrights. Beyond their highly regarded Br!NK program, Renaissance has now launched Groundworks (to “broaden our range of work and cultivate the next generation of theatre artists”) with a stellar production of Jen Silverman’s Still. The show ran for two nights in the newly opened Urban Harvest Brewery (located in the space formerly occupied by Theatre Unchained and, earlier, Carte Blanche). The opening night audience, sipping delicious complimentary craft brews, received the show with all the laughter and engagement this punchy script and production deserved.
Forty-one-year-old mother, Morgan (Marti Gobel), grieves the stillbirth of her son, Constantinople (Joe Piccheti), while her midwife, Elena (Ericka Wade), faces loss of license. Constantinople, though dead, is far from gone. Rather, he wanders the city seeking his mother by the disembodied sound of her crying and finds Dolores (Molly Corkins), a pregnant 18-year-old dominatrix, instead. Although the premise is fantastical, all of Silverman’s characters are deeply realistic. This is no pandering story about finding resolution after tragedy, but rather about learning to live with grief and communicate honestly with those who can help.
Under Alexander Coddington’s stage direction and in the hands of this impeccable cast, all the deception, vulnerability and humor that each character carries are fully realized. Gobel brought all the necessary strength and snark to the figure of the mother and handled the humor of her lines impeccably by delivering even the most fantastical—at one point, she describes moss covering her basement in the time she will spend cloistered there eating “sympathy casserole”—in utmost earnest. Piccheti gave the wandering spirit of her baby a great sense of wonder and a generally charming childlike vocal affectation. As Elena, Wade produced a powerful character arc, moving the midwife from a place of extreme self-doubt and deference to others to one of strength, optimism and even whimsical thinking; when she appears in Dolores’ dom clothes, it’s as if we’re seeing a different person entirely. Finally, as the 18-year-old runaway, Corkins did a fantastic job embodying the simultaneous insecurity and chutzpa of a highly intelligent and very lonely young woman at the end of her rope.
We can only hope to see this production staged again in the future and given a deservedly longer run. For now, let the anticipation build for Groundworks’ next offering.