With an aging population of baby boomers dominating the U.S. demographic, more and more people are starting to experience firsthand the devastating affects of dementia. Good Theater compassionately tackles the issue with the New England premiere of Bruce Graham’s “The Outgoing Tide.”
The play delivers a realistic portrayal of one family’s struggle to come to grips with dementia when the patriarch, Gunner (Will Rhys), begins showing signs of mental deterioration. A humanizing amount of humor tastefully mixes with feelings of anguish, providing levity without trivializing the illness.
“Knowing him, he’d shoot me and forget to shoot himself,” Peg (Florence Lacey) wryly quipped Friday in reference to her husband’s proposed murder-suicide plot.
Director Brian P. Allen has cast a fabulous trio to star as the endearing family.
Rhys and Lacey are veteran actors with extensive Broadway and off-Broadway resumes that include Lacey’s five-year-long role as Eva Peron in “Evita.”
Equity actor J.P. Guimont joins Rhys and Lacey as their onstage son, Jack.
The chemistry is strong between the actors, fostering the illusion that the three have been family for 50 years. It’s all there: the teasing, the love and the exasperation.
Gunner grew up in a rough neighborhood in Philly, brokered deals for the Teamsters and ran his own trucking business before retiring. He’s used to taking charge, and is beyond devastated at the idea of losing himself to dementia.
“I didn’t know my own son. I tried to watch ‘Cops’ on the microwave,” Gunner laments as he tries to sway his family to accept his final plan.
Rhys is utterly believable in the role, capturing his character’s frustration and fear as he drifts in and out of lucidity.
Lacey and Guimont also deliver powerful performances, allowing the audience to feel Peg’s desperate need to take care of Gunner and Jack’s vexation at being torn between his parents’ opposing wishes.
Adding to the drama, Jack is in the throes of a divorce and feeling at odds with one of his three kids.
Although “The Outgoing Tide” is primarily set in the present day, the play also journeys back in time through character memories. It’s fun to see Rhys as a self-assured teenager, Lacey as an insecure wallflower and Guimont as a gullible little boy. The shift in their characters’ mannerisms and personalities nicely highlights all three performers’ acting talents.
The overall feeling of the play is enhanced by a beautifully rendered, simple set by Stephen Underwood and scenic artist Cheryl Dolan. There’s a wonderful wistfulness to the Chesapeake Bay beach home setting.
“The Outgoing Tide” invites the audience to join Gunner, Peg and Jack for a bittersweet exploration of a heart-wrenching illness that touches the lives of so many.
April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at: