The Vineyard Theatre’s newest installation, This Day Forward, is one show that certainly makes you think. Written by Nicky Silver (Pterodactyls, The Lyons) it is not your typical love story; in fact, it is the lack of love that really is the star of this show.
Set in both 1958 and 2004, the story centers around Irene’s (Holley Fain) love life. The play begins in 1958, in a swank hotel (with trimmings that seriously make me consider hiring scenic designer, Allen Moyer, to re-do my place), on Irene and Martin’s (Michael Crane) wedding night. We immediately are drawn in by Fain’s excellent portrayal of a nervous, fidgety and distressed newlywed. After skirting around for awhile, she finally admits to Martin that she is not in love with him, but instead, is in love with Emil (Joe Tippett), a loud-mouth, brash, gas station attendant she has been forbidden from dating by her mother. Martin, in obvious disbelief, begins to question her about the relationship and why she decided to wait until AFTER their wedding to share this information. Irene explains how the two became acquainted, their subsequent break-up and how Emil was on his way over to pick up Irene after she had seen him earlier that morning. Emil arrives and the three hash it out in the hotel room. The men decide to fight for the right for Irene. While they “take it outside,” Irene is given love advice from Melka (June Gable), the polish immigrant hotel maid, who was in a similar situation. She cautions her from following her heart, as it did not work out in her favor, and urges her to stay with a man who can take care of her and give her the material things she desires. Martin finally returns and with her mind made up, Irene chooses to forgo Melka’s advice and go with love over material wealth and leaves to meet up with Emil.
The second act begins in a totally redesigned space (and again, Moyer’s design of a chic New York apartment makes me question if I could pull that off in suburbia). Major kudos to the run crew who successfully took apart an entire stage in the time it took to check my Facebook. The story begins with Crane, now playing Noah, with his boyfriend, Leo (Andrew Burnap) in a beautiful NYC apartment in 2004. Leo is stressed out because his estranged mother is coming after being picked up by the police at JFK Airport after seemingly having an Alzheimer’s episode. We then meet Noah’s sister, Sheila (Francesca Faridany) who explains just how bad it is living with her mother. When their mother arrives, we realize it is Irene (now played by June Gable), many years later. We learn that even though we saw her exit to follow her heart to be with Emil in Act I, she still wound up with Martin, lived a miserable life with all of the amenities a 20th-century woman could want. This misery trickled down into her children, who both have sabotaged relationships, unstable lives and an affinity for feeling like they were generally unwanted. The play closes with Irene seemingly talking to a ghostly Emil, in which we learn he never met with her that night. Feeling like he was unable to provide her the life she wanted, he decided it was best to let her stay with Martin.
It is in the final moments that this play really shines. Taking on the concept of how failed love shapes people is not something many have done before. Silver does a phenomenal job of making you think about following your heart without being cheesy. Personally experiencing this show with someone who has been divorced was an added treat, as for her, it gave her some closure in her decisions. You can never know what the future holds for you, but this play truly shows you that by playing it safe and not trusting your heart, you may be able to survive, but the life you lead will be riddled with misery, melancholy and general unhappiness that is felt by EVERYONE around you. This will then affect the choices they make for the rest of their lives, causing this cycle to never end.
Playing now through Dec. 18th, this is one show you do not want to miss. Besides the kudos given above, a sincere salute to those cast members that played dual roles. Taking on the challenge of playing two completely different characters and making it believable can be difficult, but the cast makes it appear effortless. For tickets and information, please visit www.vineyardtheatre.org and be sure to check out the lower lobby for added touches that make the play come alive.
Review By: Renee Demaio
Photos By: Julieta Cervantes