Rob Grayson

‘in a word’ from Elements Theatre Collective

Three Actors Explore Language, Grief, and Redemption

With Lauren Yee’s in a word, Elements Theatre Collective continues to fulfill its mission of presenting free productions of challenging plays in alternative spaces around Santa Barbara County. Jenna Scanlon anchors this three-hander as Fiona, a woman haunted by the unsolved disappearance of her young son, Tristan. Newcomer Jeffrey Doornbos is great as Guy, Fiona’s long-suffering, brave yet way-flawed spouse. Matthew Tavianini plays multiple roles, including Tristan at various stages of toddlerhood, a bumbling detective assigned to the case, Guy’s rotten best friend Andy, and even a man in the grocery store who claims to be Tristan’s kidnapper.

Playwright Yee expresses the shattering impact of the loss of a child through multiple narrative strategies, distorting time and pushing the language to comprehend multiple layers of intention. Thanks to Michael Bernard’s keen direction, the actors keep a clear focus even when the script calls for them to verbalize characters’ thoughts and feelings along with the words they presumably spoke. The play tackles a hard subject, but through the dazzling rhetorical invention of the writing and a steadfast refusal on the part of the cast to allow the material to become maudlin, in a word succeeds in creating a captivating theatrical world.

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