Recently Naeema Campbell and I saw Tar Beach. The play written by Tammy Ryan is Luna Stage‘s third world premiere of the season.
Attending the preview was more of an experience than simply watching a play. The first indication of this was entering the set, after being greeted by Cheryl Katz, (Luna Stage artistic director and director of Tar Beach), entirely constructed of cardboard boxes. The set, designed by Brian Dudkienicz caused you to feel an instant sense of comfort and more appropriately, intimacy.
Like most Luna Stage productions I have seen, Tar Beach made you feel like you were entering a different world. We meet Reenie, the innocent younger sister played by Emmanuelle Nadeau, who is reminiscing in the attic of her family’s home. Tar Beach takes us to the summer of 1977 in New York City, during a dark time. The title of the play referring to rooftops, New Yorkers who want to escape the city go to the top of their buildings to soak up sun and get some peace and quiet.
The theme of Tar Beach is a girl’s lost of innocence in an unfathomable way, however the impeccable writing makes it light, comical and relatable: Hard to love parents, played by Bart Shatto and Heather Benton; Sibling squabbles, older sister Mary Claire played by Emily Verla always taking Reenie’s prized Medusa head. Then there is the outspoken best friend played by Alanna Monte who turns out to may or may not be a bad influence on the sisters. The dymanic of the parent’s relationship trickling down on their daughters.
The director, Cheryl Katz writes,
The older I get, the fewer memories of my childhood stay with me. The ones that do, grow in significance and perhaps even expand in reality and cross a line of truthfullness. I still go back to them. I unpack them again and again, looking for clues to haow I became who i am — What I fear — Who I love — How I navigate the tracherous and beautiful world around me. – Letter from Artistic Director
Tar Beach allows you to think back on candid moments of your childhood that have shaped you. Moments not deemed significant until right now.We are there with Reenie, Mary Claire, and their parent’s Roger and Brigit on a typical day following the family through the amazing set, the attic, rooftop, kitchen and the sisters’ bedroom.
Mary Claire and her best friend Mary Frances (both names from the bible) are skating on the line of guilt by trying not to get caught smoking cigarettes on the roof, and planning on how to lie and sneak out of the house to meet up with older boys. Though there may be yelling, and strain in the mother’s love towards her family, everyone comes together when the city fills with darkness and innocence is truly lost.
Be sure to attend Tar Beach, closing out the 2014-2015 season. Spend a couple hours observing a normal family in the summer of 1977 in New York City who must reevaluate after tragedy.
See Tar Beach Thursdays 7:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays 8:00pm and Sundays 3:00pm. This coming Thursday April 23rd is the talkback with playwright Tammy Ryan. Purchase tickets here.
Photo Credit: Steven Lawler
Written by Patricia Rogers