Winter, which saw its world premiere last night at New Theatre, is an affecting and hilarious look at the scars of abandonment told through fraternal twins so wrapped up in their own lives, neglect becomes second nature.
It's a story about how we begin to remember the ones we love, but often times disregard while we're buried in the minutiae of our lives.
Winter tells the story of Peter (Scott Douglas Wilson) and Christina (Annemaria Rajala) Winter, fraternal twins whose seemingly demanding lives are interrupted when their mother suddenly dies.The two are charged with the somewhat bothersome task of arranging her funeral and deciding what to do with the ashes. And it's at the family estate in London on the day of the funeral where they first discover and meet Sophie (Nicole Quintana), their mother's mysterious young live-in assistant for the past six years.
The intellectual Peter is newly engaged to a Canadian woman, and loves to remind people of the book he's been meaning to write. Christina is a hard-shelled businesswoman whose demanding career has her selling pharmaceutical products and flying around the world to places like Barcelona. Their relationship is the classic sibling rivalry, each talking over the other as they engage in meaningless arguments over the phone while trying to decide what to do about their dead mother. Christina mocks Peter's so-called book, while Peter constantly refers to her doctor husband as dreary and accusing him of having a God complex. The two partake in meandering riffs that are both painful and uproarious to watch. It's through these comical, self-centered quarrels that we see Peter and Christina's egoism in full bloom. It's a palpable undercurrent in Winter, especially as the two begin to unravel some secrets about their deceased mother.
Neglect is the central theme here. The twins are so extraordinarily involved in their own lives, that they've forgotten about their mother, not just now that she's dead, but especially when she was alive.
"When someone dies," Peter somewhat prophetically proclaims to the audience before setting off to London for the funeral, "rise above your own pettiness."
Wilson gave a lucid and hilariously robust performance as Peter. His comedic timing was brilliant, deftly displaying a man immersed in intellectual bluster yet held down by his high-maintenance fiancé, his demanding mother-in-law, and his sister's heavy-handed personality. Rajala held her own as a cold and calculating Christina, while Quintana gave a moving and restrained performance as Sophie, the live-in caretaker. New Theatre veteran Barbara Sloan's portrayal as the spirit of mother Elinor was both vulnerable and droll.
Winter is a sustained and dialed-in production for New Theatre, thanks mainly to its solid cast. At roughly ninety minutes without an intermission, the play did at times seem to drag. But overall, New Theatre seems to have struck a positive chord here. Their new digs at the Roxy Performing Arts Center inside a strip mall across the street from the FIU campus seems to work thanks to it's ample space and lighting.
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Winter's subtle tone changes between the funny and the tragic paints an emotive picture of abandonment and regret. Sometimes a play is a comedy, until it's no longer a comedy. It's a fine line that works rather successfully with this production.
Look for our extended review in this week's issue.
New Theatre's Winter runs through February 19 at the Roxy Performing Arts Center, 1645 SW 107 Ave., Miami. Thursday and Sunday performances are $35. All other performances are $40. Call 305-443-5909 or visit new-theatre.org.