TENDER IS THE NIGHT
Whenever a new dramatist emerges with a new piece of work, I look forward to seeing what she can offer to the massive volume of theatrical literature, what she can show the audience that hasn’t been done before, or even better, her ability to create a story that is familiar but involves the writer’s own imprint.
Tender is English playwright Abi Morgan’s introduction into theater. Her most recent creation was the HBO mini-series Tsunami: The Aftermath. So, obviously the girl has awesome writing skills to pen a tale about so poignant of an event. Morgan uses all of her emotions in this combination of Crash meets Closer. Told in a series of connected vignettes, seven people play the Six Degrees of the Kevin Bacon game, connected to one another without being aware of said connection.
And said connection is Tash (Jennifer Pennington) a single, boozing, closed off sometimes-employed soul who begins the game with a one-night stand with Squeal (Shawn MacAulay). After being given the brush-off, other characters come into play with their own set of relationship problems. There is Hen and Al (actual couple Amy and Ryan Honey): together for six years and soon to be parents). Tash and Hen are best friends, but Tash is a bit resentful that Hen is moving closer to adulthood, and Hen is tired of putting up with Tash and being pregnant.
As she puts it, “I can’t wait to shit out this watermelon.” Al is a hardworking construction worker with a wandering eye who is in no rush to stand at the altar. Hen works at the Missing Person’s Bureau and unsuccessfully tries to help Gloria (Judy Blue) in locating her husband missing for over a year. Facetious and hurt, Gloria’s only sunshine is meeting Squeal at a neighborhood pool while still “mourning” for her husband Marvin.
All of these lost souls have lack of companionship in common. Some are willing to dive into human warmth, such as market/research analyst Nathan (Mark McClain Wilson) who, as with Gloria, has a missing spouse. The loneliness consumes him wholly. His one night with Tash only ignites the powder in his explosive keg of a mind.
Morgan weaves an intricate look in how people who don’t have intimate contact can easily be hurt, whether it is all they live for or like Tash avoid it like a disease. There is no quick fix: only people trying to survive the day. Morgan had the right idea in making the stage into a 24-hour subway train with sliding doors, representing how quickly our emotions run. God bless Dan Jenkins, the scenic designer, who put the whole thing together and made it so convincing. It is the perfect metaphor of how our lives and emotions today move far too quickly.
The GTC Burbank is located at 111- B W. Olive Avenue in Burbank; for tickets call 323-254-9328