Backstage Review: “Monessen Falls” At Good Luck Macbeth

Be sure to read what Greg Burdick, the author of “Monessen Falls”, has to say about the play at the end of this article.

~By Norm Robins~

~Photos by Dana Nollsch~

We all go through stages in life. Shakespeare knew it. So does our author Greg Burdick. We are born, go through youth, our teen years, young adulthood, and finally maturity. Hopefully, at that time, we have learned to exercise good judgment. That good judgment comes from wisdom, but wisdom comes from bad judgment. We make mistakes on the road to maturity and wisdom. Society forgives us our feckless years because we all go through them. It is natural just as it is to forgive the errors of youth.

But sometimes as adults, we remember our own errors as though they were made by adults. We fault ourselves accordingly, and it haunts us. This reasoning is illogical and utterly unfair, so we don’t judge others that way, but we don’t extend that logic to ourselves. What is the answer? Do we get redemption through repentance? There is nothing to repent. Author Burdick tells us in this play redemption comes through catharsis. We have to purge our souls in front of others. That’s what this play is about.

The cast is small. Kip, 42, played by Aaron Foster is an architect in New York. He is handsome and in good physical shape. His girlfriend Phoebe is 29, a fitness instructor, and beautiful. She is played by Tashina Habibian. Kip’s young brother Ethan, 39, played by Bryce Keil is unemployed, seemingly unemployable, disheveled, booze-soaked, and out of shape. He has a gambling addiction and has never moved out of his mother’s house.

The action takes place in Monessen, Pennsylvania, a former steel town outside of Pittsburgh, in an older house owned by the men’s mother. Kip has returned to his childhood home with Phoebe to bury his mother and wind up her financial affairs. Those affairs are in a mess and full of crushing debt.

The play opens to the chatter of cicadas outside. Like this chatter, the ghosts of the past buzz around in the men’s brains persistently and insistently and won’t go away. Neither will the sibling rivalry between a successful architect in New York and his bum of a brother. Only catharsis will resolve these problems.

There is an remarkable intensity that flows through “Monessen Falls”.

Dana Nollsch

Both rolls, Ethan and Kip, are dramatically demanding. Catharsis is, and both Bryce and Aaron play them convincingly and beautifully. Phoebe is the conciliator, peacemaker, and healer. She tries to reconcile the intense sibling rivalry and animosity between the two brothers. Tashina plays the part very well, but her efforts are futile. This is a job the brothers must do by themselves for themselves. Sandra Brunell Neace directed the play with a deft hand. Lighting and scenery are good. The sound of cicadas and later the lighting and sound effect of a thunderstorm reinforce the intensity of the dialogue going on during them.

This play is by no means a comedy or even a lighthearted drama. It is an intense story of catharsis and subsequent healing. But for all its intensity it is a play very well worth seeing.

Monessen Falls opens August 16th and runs through August 25th. Information can be found at

We asked Greg Burdick a few questions about his play, “Monessen Falls.”

All of my writing is grounded, at least in part, in personal experience. But I am very happy to report, in this particular case, that my brother and I get along just fine! 🙂 Any writer will tell you that life experiences are most often the entry point for the tales we tell. They’re simply heightened, re-imagined, intensified for dramatic effect. Something that I hope resonated in “Monessen Falls.”

It’s my deepest wish that the play offers hope to anyone who might believe that they’re out of options, or that their broken relationships are fully beyond repair. So many times, the solution to our trickiest problems in life are staring us right in the face… we’re often just too stubborn or short-sighted to move forward.

I’ve always been a writer in some sense, and having worked for more than 35 years in theatre, I’ve consistently been fascinated with good storytelling.  But it’s only been within the last four years that I’ve grown courageous enough to take a serious swing at it. The encouragement of several close friends and colleagues has made all the difference. And, I’m forever grateful to theatre companies like Good Luck Macbeth, who are bold enough to champion new works by unfamiliar playwrights… it’s an enormous risk for them, and the stakes aren’t lost on me. I’m incredibly lucky to have this opportunity to share my work. Without them, I’d still be among the ranks of thousands of playwrights nationwide (the majority of whom are wildly more talented than myself,) still toiling away at it in obscurity.

From here, it’s my hope that “Monessen Falls” might land on other stages in cities with similar stories like Reno’s, where the notion of reinvention, regrowth, and rebirth serve as a backdrop for Kip and Ethan’s journey of renewal.

The heart of “Monessen Falls” is all about forgiveness: gifting it to those who have hurt us, and even more importantly, to ourselves.

~Greg Burdick~


One response to “Backstage Review: “Monessen Falls” At Good Luck Macbeth”

  1. Diane Nelson Avatar
    Diane Nelson

    It is very rewarding to learn of Gregg Burdick’s success with “Monessen Falls”. That has been no surprise. I was privileged to meet Gregg during the beginning of his career when he was the Drama teacher in the school where I was also teaching. Those of us who shared teaching in that high school saw our Drama department become outstanding when Gregg arrived and brought professionalism to our students and they rewarded him with hard work and dedication because he showed them how. Watch for his work in the future and see it whenever you can. You will never be disappointed. Thank you once more, “Mr.Burdick”. I am so happy, but never surprised, to see your success increasing.

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