Theatre Review

Poignant family drama at Burbage

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Playing on the old adage that “blood is thicker than water,” writer Melissa Ross explores a broken family where events of the past have left three siblings in emotional crises, where they question that, in their situation, “blood is thinner than water.”

Renee (Rae Mancini), Gary (Dillon Medina) and Cassie (Allison Russo) have the same father, but different mothers. We catch up with them as they face their father’s terminal illness and subsequent death. There is no love or sympathy for the man who fathered, mistreated and abandoned them, causing all three a variety of emotional and relationship problems.

Director Allison Crews uses the space at Burbage effectively, sitting the audience on two sides of a set that changes rapidly and efficiently from an apartment to a street to a hospital waiting room.

The three siblings must deal with their father’s negative effect on the family while also dealing with their own personal problems. All three are bitter, confused and unable to face their siblings and their own failures. They must learn to get on with their lives.

Renee is the oldest and angriest of the three, having seen her dreams unmet, leaving the valedictorian of her class in a troubled marriage, with a husband (Jim O’Brien) who wants to move cross country. She is conflicted between starting anew and leaving the only family she knew, even if it is a disjointed relationship.

Gary is a complete mess. He works in a comic book shop, wants to move ahead by becoming a Big Brother, but messes up that opportunity and he still lives with his mother.

And then there is Cassie, an even bigger mess than the other two. She is separated from her lawyer partner, having broken up five times because she can’t meet his or her own expectations.

To further complicate the situation, the father’s latest girlfriend (Clare Blackmer) shows up at the hospital. The woman has her own problems, talking constantly to cover up for her insecurities.

“How did we get here?” one of the siblings asks, which brings us to where they will go after they bury their father.

There is a ray of hope in the interesting outcome, as each finds a way. But you wonder if it will last.

“Thinner Than Water” is a pretty heavy play, tackling many issues over its two-act, two-hour production. It will make you think about the influences that broken marriages have on the children and how much chance they have to move on. There’s a bit of humor to break the tension and quite a bit of profanity. It will surely make you stop and think.

“Thinner Than Water” is at Burbage, 249 Roosevelt Ave., Pawtucket, through May 13. Call 484-0355 or go online at www.burbagetheatre.org for reservations.

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