I don't mean to be cruel, dear readers, but I'm about to tell you about one of the most gloriously simple and quietly profound shows that you'll probably not get to see. "Holy Days" by Sally Nemeth from New Century Theatre Company stars some of the finest performers in the Seattle area at the top of their game in a play that's silent grace will stay with you long after it's over. Currently playing at Raisbeck Performance Hall, it unfortunately is only up for this weekend and if their ticketing website is any indication those shows are already close to sold out.
Bet let's talk about this striking piece anyway. Two couples, Gant and Rosie (Hans Altwies and Amy Thone) and Will and Molly (Darragh Kennan and Jennifer Lee Taylor) struggle to eke out a meager living the best they can. Even with the little government assistance they get, it's near impossible. Oh and did I mention this is in the 1930's in what was lovingly referred to as the "dustbowl" where these farmers tried to keep going during what became known as the "black blizzards", immense dust storms that rolled across the area. Faced with a dying farm, Gant decides to take one of the WPA jobs available to make some money to save their homes. But that job will also take him away from his wife for up to three years. To make matters worse, Rosie is still trying to cope with a personal tragedy from some years prior. This hauntingly beautiful story shines a light on an incredibly dark and bleak time in our nation's history and the amazingly strong people who survived it against all odds. If we think we have it tough now, we have no idea what tough is.
Director Paul Morgan Stetler not only infuses the piece with brutal honestly but also with several moments of aching silence. Moments that could drag or weigh down the show in the hands of a less gifted group but here only serve the piece in showing the quiet complexity of the time. Kennan and Taylor manage a wonderful portrayal of a loving couple in a horrible situation. Kennan with his light hearted naiveté and Taylor with her matter of fact strength bring so much honesty and heart to the roles. And Altwies turns in a gorgeous performance as the stalwart provider infused with a hushed pride. But it was Thone whose performance completely blew me away and had me sobbing. She gives an elegant portrayal of a damaged woman, often without ever saying a word. And when she does speak she inhabits those words with such power and intensity, you feel like you've been punched in the gut. Thone puts forth a stunningly focused and thoughtful performance that becomes the heart of the piece.
I'm starting to sense a trend here. Not only the trend of NCTC putting on some of the best theater in the city (and with the talent amongst them I'm not surprised) but also the smaller and less well known shows bringing the goods this season. "A Shade of Green" from Theatre 9/12, "A Single Shard" from SCT and now "Holy Days" from NCTC. It just goes to prove that often times less is more. Like I said, the show only has two more performances and I think they may be sold out although I did hear a rumor that limited tickets have been added to the shows. So if you're fortunate enough to have tickets, you're in for an amazing evening. And if not, you could always try and get on the waiting list. Best of luck to you.
"Holy Days" from New Century Theatre Company performs at Raisbeck Performance Hall through March 18th. For tickets or information on this or other NCTC shows, visit them online at www.wearenctc.org.
Photo credit: Chris Bennion