This LGBT-centric play tells a story of addiction and the lives we never lived.
Photos by Russ Rowland
Leave Me Green by Lisi DeHaas is a play about grieving, and not just those people we have lost but the lives we never lived. It is the story of a has-been soap opera star, her son who never got to know his birth father, her nemesis of a neighbor who was once a dear family friend and, of course, the love of her life, who has passed away far too soon. So how do we manage the lives we do have while mourning the ones that never came to be?
Unfortunately, in this world premiere production by APT 10C Productions and Kindling Theater Company, a good part of that answer involves alcohol. More than simply being about loss, Leave Me Green is a complex and engaging portrait of alcoholism and its effects on already struggling families. As Rebecca O'Reilly Green tries to accept the death of her wife Inez in Iraq and continue her job as a real estate agent to support her son, she never seems to quite be sober anymore, and before long that becomes the true tragedy.
The play is more Gus's story than Rebecca's, however, following the teen as he meets his girlfriend in a support group for family members of alcoholics, pursues a familial relationship with neighbor Myron and tries to manage the everyday tasks of the house that his mother quite clearly is no longer up to. It is also very much a musical story, with record players, iPods and salsa clubs of yore permeating the fabric of the performance and recalling the members of the family who are no longer with them. Rarely does a minute or two go by without some fitting musical accompaniment, an engaging addition to the otherwise stark script.
Leave Me Green starts off rather slowly, only picking up energy once Rebecca's condition truly starts to deteriorate and the secrets start coming out. Who is Gus's father? What is really going on with Lia's family, itself full of alcoholics unable to come to terms with her brother's suicide? Just who is Myron, the neighborhood pot dealer, to Rebecca and Gus? And how could getting pregnant with her son have ruined Rebecca's acting career when, by definition because of her and her partner's sexuality, it could not have been an accident?
In a show such as this one, with a small cast and a strong family focus, it is the acting that truly carries the show. From Gus's (Oscar A. L. Cabrera) compelling struggle to be the adult in his family to Lia's (Emma Meltzer) entertaining abrasiveness, this is not a story about charming characters. Rather, it tells the tale of people warped by grief, typified in the character of Rebecca (Charlotte Booker) whose startling and repulsive depiction of a middle-aged alcoholic is nonetheless deeply sympathetic. Michael Gaines rounds out the cast as Myron, the fatherly drug dealer and music lover with his own dark past.
Perfectly fitting for the world of New York City apartments with paper-thin walls, you are always aware of where the neighbors are and what they're doing in this show. The set is divided up into four main areas so that scenes can blend effortlessly from bedroom to kitchen to Myron's living room, an inventive conceit that emphasizes how linked the four characters are to one another. When either Gus or Myron decides to play a record, the whole stage knows what they're feeling.
Ultimately, there is not a lot of action in this play beyond outbursts of emotion and whatever Rebecca's next drunken escapade may be. But what Leave Me Green excels at is the messy bits of life, the day-to-day affairs of people who can't bear to look any further ahead. It swirls together issues of the Iraq War, LGBT families, drug use and more to concoct the story of one unique family and what brings them to their breaking point.
Leave Me Green plays at the Gym at Judson through April 11.
This article was previously published on CHARGED.fm.