Heaven Has Thin Walls: “Los Meadows”

Robert Cope and Gale Argentine in Boston Public Works’ production. (Courtesy Paul Fox/Boston Public Works)

Presented by Boston Public Works Theater Company
Written by Laura Neubauer
Directed by Olivia D’Ambrosio

June 16 – July 1, 2017
Blackbox, South End / BCA Plaza Theatres
Boston, MA
BPWT on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

Trigger warning for drug use, and sharp, loud noises.

(Boston, MA) Some adults who identify as homeless choose to be there. This doesn’t account for all of them, merely some of the population. These people who do choose to live on the streets, or off the grid are still people. They deserve compassion, and respect. Boston forgets that. People forget that. Los Meadows helps us remember our shared humanity.

It is Thanksgiving and the Barry sisters want to celebrate as a family. Tia (Kira Compton) has flown in from Honduras. Cher (Amie Lytle) has left the kids with their Dad. Liz (Lydia Jane Graeff) is hosting. Their Mother, Perdita (Gale Argentine), would complete their gathering if only she could be found. They wanted a nice family dinner, instead the travel through the Las Vegas underground tunnels searching for the Mom they belief is lost. Perdita has a differing opinion.

Los Meadows starts violently. Perdita has lost her husband in a violent car accident years ago. To cope with the tragedy, Perdita has reshaped her reality into one in which Walter survived, but now he’s lost. It becomes immediately clear that Perdita is neurodivergent. She joins the homeless population rather than sacrifice her freedom to a mental institution. Argentine plays Perdita with respect and honesty. She bestows upon Perdita an integrity that society frequently denies the homeless population. Perdita isn’t a lost soul; she’s a woman who made a rebellious choice to be free.

This play has great potential but it needs editing. The second act is organized, the dialogue communicates the characters’ thoughts and feelings effectively, and there are enough events to keep the audience intrigued. The first act is less successful. Neubauer tells us who and how these characters are so we sympathize with them. Neubauer’s plot takes too long to tell us what the characters are doing and why they are doing it. For example, there’s a darkly funny scene in a Denny’s that establishes character weakness. This and other such moments read more as playwright’s whimsy than as necessary plot points. The flow is challenged as we lose sight of the play’s message. Tightening the script will clarify the play’s purpose.

If there’s a villain in this show, it’s the sisters. Compton, Lytle, and Graeff play them realistically, and faithfully. It’s as if they are completely unaware of how unloving they’re being to their Mother. Their characters aren’t good people but they try.

Robert Cope as Walter/Otto Walters is the only decent person among the bunch. He’s accepting of Perdita’s state and doesn’t expect her to be anyone other than herself. Otto is comfortable with strangeness. Cope looks comfortable in Otto’s world. The comfort is reassuring.

Creative crew Ryan Bates, Andrew Duncan Will, and PJ Strachman have turned the blackbox theatre into a horror dreamscape out of a science fiction novella. The environment the cast walks looks like the characters’ pain made manifest. Their collective efforts would be pretty if they weren’t so fearsome.  

Ultimately, Los Meadows isn’t just about a homeless woman. It’s about the unbearable distance between alienated family members who’ve jointly suffered great tragedy. Disability can affect anyone and at anytime regardless of age, gender, race, orientation, etc. Disability doesn’t have to be scary. It is only by accepting their faults and their differences that the Barrys begin to become a real family again. Humanity’s ingredients of weird, strange and peculiar is a cocktail best served shared.


Queen’s Note:
We elected a thin-skinned bigot to the office of the President dead set on turning our “democracy” into a fascist, totalitarian oligarchy dominated by the 1%. Trump is a monster. His policies, when he names them, are destructive. His narcissistic behavior is more so.

Congressional “negotiators” released a spending bill that saves the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for Humanities, and National Public Radio until September at which time, the President and his impotent cronies may still cut arts funding. It is ever important to remain vigilant. And, for the love of all that’s sacred, keep creating. If you need help, ask for it. Our existence is our resistance. May the force be with you. – KD

TCG has a list of things you can do to help.

#blacklivesmatter #translivesmatter #brownlivesmatter #yellowlivesmatter #lgbtqialivesmatter #immigrantlivesmatter #muslimlivesmatter #disabledlivesmatter #theatreartsmatter #NODAPL

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