Be A Good Little Widow
Directed by Courtney O’Connor, AIM Stage, http://www.aimstage.com/index.html
Davis Square Theatre, 255 Elm Street, Somerville, MA
Review by Gillian Daniels
(Somerville, MA) In its inaugural productions, AIM Stage performs a successful balancing act between humor and tragedy. Bekah Brunstetter’s skillfully wrought Be a Good Little Widow is about the awkward timing of grief, the impact it has on relationships, and the bittersweet experience of watching someone disappear completely from your life. I was enormously touched and entertained by it.Brunstetter’s writing is sharp. The one-liners that come from Melody (Chelsea Cipolla), the grieving widow of Craig (Jason Powers), are always witty. With the character several years out of college, Cipolla plays her with believable naiveté and candor.
Married and now grieving at twenty-five, Melody is at a loss in how to deal with the death of her husband appropriately. It’s established early on that she’s largely isolated in the town she and her husband moved to. Now the only people she has to turn to for comfort and advice is Craig’s co-worker, Brad (Grant MacDermott), and Craig’s straight-laced mother, Hope (Lisa Tucker).
Tucker’s Hope is firm and practiced in her position as a mourner. Like Melody, she was widowed early on and had to grow up in a hurry. Tucker plays the character with polish and strength, a real stand-out. She beautifully avoids a shrill stereotype. Hope and Melody make a lovely contrast, a careful comparison of different generations dealing with loss.
Despite their shared tragedy, they’re still somehow unable to connect for much of the play. In one scene, Hope tries to console Melody by saying in a robotically sympathetic voice, “Let’s hug!” as if this manufactured commiseration will somehow seal away her daughter-in-law’s grief. It’s a good laugh and a bitter one.
Bekah Brunstetter never makes light of the grieving process. Be A Good Little Widow is sympathetic to everyone touched by Craig’s death and the process through which they come to terms with it. Even the “bad poem” Brad writes for Craig in the wake of his death is humble and sweet. This is not humor at the expense of a friend dying but humor in respect to it. Those worried the show will bring up bad memories need not shy away.
Perhaps what ties together the story best is how it attempts to capture the empty, lost feeling in planning a funeral. A church service doesn’t just happen, it must be put together detail by detail. In rallying together, Melody and Hope both riff off each other and butt heads in their grief. It’s a recognizably human component of an already human story, one I recommend to anyone willing to come to the Davis Square Theatre to see it unfold.