The Outgoing Tide | Town Hall Galway
Star Rating: 3/5
The Outgoing Tide
At the Town Hall Galway
Produced by Northlight Theatre
By Bruce Graham
Directed by BJ Jones
Starring John Mahoney, Rondi Reed, Thomas J Cox
The Outgoing Tide was a hit before the Galway Arts Festival even began, selling out each night - and occasional day time performance of its six date run. Writen for John Mahoney (Gunner) and co-starring his 'stage wife' Rondi Reed (Peg), Thomas J Cox is Jack, their not so prodigal, only child whose return to Chesapeake Bay puts in motion Gunner's plan for the future, whch is beneficial and in some cases, profitable, for all. But is the price too high?
That's the question that is never really tackled in Bruce Graham's soft focus script for Chicago's Northlight Theatre, directed by that venue's AD, BJ Jones. Once Gunner lays his cards upon the table there is never much doubt as to what is going to happen. Instead, the play derives it’s gentle forward motion from the ripples created by his announcement, skimming the surface of the travails faced by those entering middle and old age.
The generational differences in their approach to romance and parenting and the inevitable, sometimes identical results, produce a sense of kinship between the audeince and the authors creations. It's emotionally charged but never manipulative, using humour not only to break the odd moment of tension, but as a velvet glove for a characters' true feelings.
Yet it could have done without the torpid flashbacks which help the characters escape from the pain of the present. Shying away from the acknowledged bitterness between father and son and the frustrations of husband and wife, it makes sepia what should be scarring, stepping away from the inhumanity of getting old to underline what the actors had gotten across themselves through their well excecuted present day interactions. The same goes for the scene in which Gunner visits an 'old friend' in hospital, tying a little to neatly up his unresovled issues with his son and setting up the final act.
The acting is for the most part superb. Mahoney's malignant mirth strains with unbearable regret, his ability to shift between Gunner's varying degrees of lucidity, loquaciousness and vexation showcasing pitch perfect comic and conscientious timing. Reed, as a woman who has sacrificed everything for her son and husband, displays just the right amount of selfishness and rigidness for a woman so caught up in caring for others she fails to see how she's harming them while Cox's charign at his father's candour is well tempered by his struggle not to turn into him. It finches a little when it comes to the uglier aspects of Gunner's prospected futures and Jack's own feelings, both towards his father who may have inadvertanly pusehd him down the wrong path and his youngest son who's paying the price.
It's a show that benefits from knowing very little prior to seeing it( a fact I've tried to honour in this review). Having interviewd Mahoney for this website and read some less reverential features printed prior to the show I knew its whip lash twists, resulting in a desire for more of a punch elsewhere, which, as skilfully as the play was put together, just never came.
By Caomhan Keane
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Monday 23rd July 2012 | Theatre
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