“Unbroken Circle” is now running at St. Luke’s Theatre in New York. The play, which was written by James Wesley, is an intense look at a family that has gathered for the funeral of the father of the family. In the opening scenes of the “Unbroken Circle,” one might think they will be seeing a comedy. However, as it unfolds, audiences realize that is far from what the play’s tone really is.
According to the Playwright’s Notes, the story was based on impressions writer James Wesley formed from a family photo where his grandfather’s mother appeared at 12 years of age with an expression that haunted him. He eventually learned that another relative in the photo had been sexually abusing her. This caused Mr. Wesley to question many things about the woman's life and whether or not she had ever told anyone what was happening and if everybody knew but did not say anything. This concept provides the basis of the story in the play.
It is difficult subject matter to watch and it gets more intense as facts are revealed about what had been covered up for years. The humor is needed at points to bring the intensity of the subject matter to a level where an audience can see that it is not a hopeless situation. The subject matter, storyline, and writing of this play are all reasons to go to see it. But what really should push it to the top of a playgoer’s must see list this summer is the acting. As an ensemble should do, the actors work as a family should function. But their individual roles allow the details of how this family has not been able to function openly over the years to unfold for viewing by the audience.
Eve Plumb (June) proves she is one of the best character actors in the theater today as she plays the aunt who comes to town for the funeral and the reading of the will. She gets the audience laughing but also realizing how the dysfunctional situation her family is caught up in caused much harm to her own life. Suzanna Hay (Ruby) displays a change in personal countenance right in front of the audience’s eyes as she reveals her role in the abuse inflicted by her deceased husband and the manner in which she resolved it. Bobby, the son, is played by the playwright, James Wesley. His acting is strong is portraying an easy going character with the bad luck in life. His realizations and eventual actions provide some of the most intense moments in the play. Lori Hammel (Cheryl) moves superbly from participative to paralyzed as she realizes what is happening. As the person who married into the family, she recognizes that her role in breaking the circle could make all the difference. Stacy Bone-Gleason (Cathy) plays Bobby’s oldest daughter. Her restraint in disclosing information holds the secrets in captivity and she does it in a finely restricted manner. Anika Larson (Edna) is the sister who moved out of town years before without anyone really understanding why. Her take on the part is essential to understand why she has done all she has to help her brother Bobby. And finally Juli Wesley (Patti) plays Bobby’s youngest daughter with all the innocence needed to continue to hope that the circle of abuse can be broken.
“Unbroken Circle” is playing at St. Luke’s Theatre, 308 West 46th Street, New York City. The play runs for 1 hour fifty minutes with one intermission and the suggested age range is 14+. For more information about the show, when it runs, and tickets, visit their website, www.UnbrokenCircleThePlay.com.