By Vernon Nickerson
There is something deeply soul satisfying about Jan Miller Corran’s new play, “The Last Word,” which recently premiered at the Garry Marshall Theater in Burbank, CA. It took a good night’s rest for me to realize what it was about the piece’s compelling ensemble cast’s dynamic performance that felt so much like the pleasure of cuddling next to a roaring fire on a chilly fall evening. In these divisive, contentious, and fearful times, it is something that unites human beings across the generations: imagining the conversations we would have with someone we truly and deeply loved but could no longer reach out and touch each other’s physical bodies.
Perhaps the most compelling thing about Corran’s characters under the skillful guidance of Director Kate Johnston is that they let the audience in on one spouse’s emotional roller coaster of grief triggered by the sudden accidental death of a spouse. Leading the thoroughly engaging ensemble cast of players are actors John Kapelos and Barbara Niven as the surviving spouse/best-selling author Brett and the recently deceased spouse/ author’s muse Jillian, respectively. Best friends are the people who still visit and care for you after the funeral service and burial are long past. Witty, comedic, and empathic performances by actors Tom Katsis and Carole Ita White as longtime friends (and spouses) Fred and Madge fit the bill perfectly.
If fall and winter represent grief and loss, the promise of spring’s possibilities is epitomized in actor Isabella Hofman’s portrayal of Marie, a friend and neighbor of Fred and Madge and potential love match/dog finder-trainer for Brett if Madge’s intuition has her way. Hofman’s performance masterfully walks that fine line between a person still-grieving-the-loss-of-her-own spouse-but-determined-to-thrive-after-loss.
So, as quickly as you can, go and see this warm and engaging play alone. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet someone new. Better yet, go and see The Last Word with a group of your friends for a great night of theater so you too can be pleasantly reminded that love and laughter still transcend grief and loss.
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