Local writer Katie Forgette’s play is on stage at Taproot Theatre through April 29.
Forgiveness is a dicey proposition for the family in “Evidence of Things Unseen,” a new work by local playwright Katie Forgette, on stage at Taproot Theatre in its world premiere.
Eventually one character punches another, but up until then, it’s all false starts — feinting at reconciliation and tiptoeing around painful truths. Whether they’re trying to be magnanimous or simmering in their anger, none of these people has an easy path to move forward from the latest in a series of personal tragedies.
And then, smack! Right in the face. Now the healing can begin.
‘Evidence of Things Unseen’
by Katie Forgette. Through April 29, at Taproot Theatre, 204 North 85th St., Seattle; $27-$47 (206-781-9707 or taproottheatre.org).
Forgette’s economical script features four characters who’ve been put through the wringer. Sisters Abigail (Christine Marie Brown) and Jane (Jenny Vaughn Hall) are grappling with the recent death of their mother in a car wreck, but it gets worse. Now they have to break the news to their dad, Jack (Michael Winters), who’s recovering from an illness in an assisted living facility and beginning to be dulled by dementia.
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Plays about familial tragedy are often fraught with emotion, where grief-heightened sensitivities are tripped with hair-trigger ease. Forgette’s play is quieter than that. It picks up at a point when the banalities of life have begun to settle back in, and roiling anguish must make room for a decision about what to have for lunch.
Abigail and Jane have embraced different coping mechanisms in the wake of their mother’s death — strategies that were put in place years ago after an earlier loss. Abigail heads down the path of self-improvement, trying to kick cigarettes and lingering outside AA meetings, where she meets Daniel (Chip Wood). Jane digs deeper into her own devout Christianity, enduring withering stares from Abigail with every Bible study invitation and scripture recitation.
Forgette’s otherwise naturalistic dialogue can strain credulity when the sisters’ war of words escalates to dueling quotations, spoken verbatim — Abigail cites George Bernard Shaw, Jane parries with C.S. Lewis — but their conflicts ring true. Brown and Hall let us see the cracks in their characters’ opposing viewpoints; some of it is genuine belief, but a lot of it is just wounded posturing.
Winters, a longtime presence on Northwest stages and fresh off the recent “Gilmore Girls” revival, slips into Jack’s warmth and irascibility with ease, and then slips out again as Jack’s memory becomes hazier. Of all the pleasures in Scott Nolte’s carefully directed production, the most indelible might be the way Winters hollers niceties at an unseen character, then grumbles crankily about the man to himself.
Playing the outsider who becomes entwined with the family’s fate, Wood holds his cards close to his chest before the play allows his vulnerabilities to be exposed. As the character opens up, so does the performance, from bland terseness to moving sorrow.
Taproot’s production is backed by an abstract scenic design by Amanda Sweger that takes inspiration from the work of Brazilian artist Henrique Oliveira, and the swooping maelstrom of fragmented pieces of material portends a conflict that may not be solvable.
It’s a fitting backdrop for Forgette’s play, which recognizes that to reach resolution, all the pieces don’t have to fit back together.