By Bruce Graham
Directed by BJ Jones
At Northlight Theatre
Brilliant world premiere brings home the dilemmas presented by the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease
Living in retirement in a summer cottage on Chesapeake Bay, Gunner (John Mahoney) demonstrates how advanced his memory loss and his cognition is on a daily basis. He is loding it fast! When his son Jack (Thomas J. Cox) arrives for a family meeting, Gunner doesn’t know him. Peg (Rondi Reed) is the doting wife/mother totally dedicated to her family. Her entire life’s purpose is tied to Jack and Gunner.
We see how sharp and charismatic Gunner was when he ran a successful trucking business. We also learn how much Gunner psychologically brutalized Jack by constantly kidding him about his effeminate ways where cooking was more important than sports. Jack married at age twenty to thwart Gunner’s suspicions about his sexuality. The father-son relationship was strained over the years. Peg’s smothering of Jack didn’t help him.
Jack and Peg want to convince Gunner to move to an assisted living facility. Gunner, becoming frustrated with his worsening mental state, has an alternate plan to deal with his condition. Gunner has a quite unorthodox plan to secure both Peg’s and Jack’s future. The play deftly deals with the ramifications and ethical dilemmas as Gunner chooses a final solution that will solve everyone’s need for financial security and his need for peace and dignity.
The Outgoing Tide is a powerful work devoid of sentimentality yet filed with an honorably honest conclusion. This drama hums with dark humor that underscores the powerful emotions. John Mahoney gives a tour de force performance as the confused Gunner. Rondi Reed and Thomas J Cox were marvelously honest as the loved ones struggling to understand Gunner’s decision. Graham’s tight, well written drama focuses on the right of an individual to leave this life with dignity. He vividly depicts how those left behind must demonstrate their love through understanding and acceptance. The Outgoing Tide will stir controversy and ethical debates – so be it. With world class actors at the height of their art, The Outgoing Tide puts a face on the right to die with dignity dilemma that ring with so much truth that you’ll be thinking about Gunner’s choice long after leaving the theatre. This is a important “must see” show.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: May 21, 2011
At Northlight Theatre, 9501 N Skokie Blvd, Skokie, IL, call 847-673-6300, tickets $40 -$50, Tuesdays at 7:30 pm, Wednesdays at 1 & 7:30 pm, Thursdays at 7;30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2:30 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2;30 & 7 pm, running time is 95minutes with intermission, through June 19, 2011