Presented by Path2Productions
Q Theatre, Queanbeyan to 17 February
Reviewed by Len Power 14 February 2018
Faced with a choice between placing an ageing, helpless parent in a nursing home or helping them to end their suffering, what would you do?
In ‘The Magnolia Tree’, three siblings meet at their mother’s home to decide her future. Suffering with Alzheimer’s, their mother needs constant care. The cost of expensive nursing home care will mean that none of the children will see any of the long hoped-for inheritance money that could turn their lives around. The son, Jack, offers a seemingly undetectable plan of painless death as an alternative.
After hearing the discussion of the pros and cons of this family’s situation, the audience is given an opportunity to vote on a choice of action. The play then concludes with the audience’s choice of the two possible endings.
What should have been a compelling drama was a disappointment. The issues a family have to face in a situation like this are highlighted, but the dramatic effect is weakened as personal revelations about each of the characters in Michael Griffith’s script play like a TV soap opera.
It’s also not helped by the static direction by the author. For much of the play, the cast deliver their lines directly to the audience rather than to each other. Maybe this was a deliberate choice by the director to increase audience involvement but it didn’t work.
The three cast members, Ezra Bix as Jack, Rohana Hayes as Deborah and Ruth Katerelos as Vicky, seemed ill at ease and under-rehearsed. There were too many awkward line readings, emotions seemed to be forced and there was a lack of light and shade in delivery as well as a slow pace.
The ending of the play, following the opening night audience’s vote, proved to be anti-climactic. Maybe the other ending has more going for it.
The idea behind Michael Griffith’s play is a good one but this current script and production don’t provide the emotional intensity and involvement that it should.
Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7’s ‘On Stage’ program on Mondays from 3.30pm and on ‘Artcetera’ from 9.00am on Saturdays.