Backstage Review: ‘Slowgirl’ At Restless Artists Theater
“Slowgirl” is written by Greg Pierce
By Norm Robins
Photos by Dana Nollsch
Our two heroes are 49-year-old Sterling and his 17-year-old niece Becky. Sterling is a recluse hiding out in a Costa Rican jungle far from any large city. He was a lawyer caught up in some nasty, illegal financial dealings. He claims ignorance of what happened except that some people were hurt and he made a lot of money. He was never involved in the firm’s financial dealings. He and his partner were put on trial. His partner went to jail for 15 years, but Sterling was acquitted. Nonetheless, he fled the shame of it all to a Costa Rican jungle years ago where he lives sparingly if comfortably. He takes daily walks in a labyrinth of his own design and construction. His labyrinth is where he goes to think things through and to heal his troubled soul. It is more understandable to him than the confusing, troublesome maze he left behind.
His niece Becky, whom he hasn’t seen since she was 9 years old eight years ago, was implicated in the death of a developmentally disabled youngster named Marybeth nicknamed Slowgirl by Becky’s group of friends. Some teenagers put together a party at the house of one of them whose parents were gone for the time being. One of the partygoers got some vodka and made Jell-O shots. Slowgirl loves Jell-O and downed too many of them not knowing they were spiked with vodka. Drunk, she went up to the second floor, and in her delirium she thought she could fly. She jumped out of the window with some encouragement from her classmates. She landed on the concrete below and is now in a coma. Becky got suspended from school and freaked out over the whole affair. She could possibly go to prison. Becky’s mom convinced her to go cool down for a few days with her Uncle Sterling in the jungle and then return home to face the music. She must return whether she wants to or not. With trepidation she doesn’t want to. She fantasizes going to the electric chair.
Just before it’s time for Becky to leave, she and Sterling have a soul searching heart-to-heart talk. They are two wounded souls in need of repair. She accuses him of giving up on life when he should not have. He has everything to live for. Becky finds out Slowgirl died. Becky, torn by fear of the unknown and guilt, opens up to Sterling and tells him item by item the truth about her involvement in Slowgirl’s death. Her efforts to heal his wounded soul succeed. So do his efforts to heal her wounded soul. For the first time in a long time he is needed. His life has purpose.
Hannah portrays Becky’s teenage angst beautifully. She is a chatty Cathy who talks even more in response to Sterling’s reticence. David’s patient and deliberative Sterling is in turn a touching counterpoint to Becky’s chatty Cathy demeanor delivered pleasantly in teenage patois. Their acting is a joy to watch.
The set design by Doug Mishler is perfect. The sound effects—the handiwork of Ken Hull–are solid especially the iguana clawing at the sheet metal roof to sharpen its claws. This drives Becky into an uncontrolled frenzy. She thinks it’s a member of the dragon family. She thinks it may kill Sterling and lay its eggs in his belly. Good grief no, Becky, it’s only a vegetarian lizard.
Pierce gives us a surprise ending and a delightful one. This is a beautiful play. It is a play about two people one generation apart who bond with each other and who show each other that both lives, however troubled, are worth living. Hiding from life is not the answer. It shows us what good comes from caring for and nurturing each other. It shows what happens when an older man’s life is suddenly given direction.
Director…………………..Debra Lynn Hull
“Slowgirl” opens Friday, February 14, 2020, and will run through March 1, 2020, at the Restless Artists Theater, 295 20th St., Sparks. For ticket information please go to RATTheatre.org.