New Haven theater company Theatre 4’s upcoming show, “SALVAGE,” aims to take audiences by storm, quite literally.
Written by Cleveland-based playwright George Brant and commissioned by Theatre 4, the play will make its worldwide debut Thursday night at UpCrown Studios on Crown Street. Set on the day of a man named Danny’s funeral, the show follows Danny’s mother, sister and high school ex-girlfriend as they attempt to save his possessions from the path of an oncoming storm. The story was inspired by themes of responsibility and personal sacrifice, said co-producing director and Theatre 4 co-founder Mariah Sage, who plays Danny’s sister.
“The theme of saving someone or saving yourself is interwoven throughout the play,” Sage said. “In the face of personal loss, what is valuable about a human’s life and about the things that we carry with us?”
Theatre 4 commissioned the show after working with Brant in the past on shorter pieces, she said. The one stipulation to the author, she added, was that the show be written for her and fellow Theatre 4 founders Rebecka Jones and Jane Tamarkin. Beyond that, Brant was free to pursue his own artistic goals with the show. Tamarkin said the play is especially significant because it is written for three women of varying ages, which she said is rare among dramatic works.
Sage said her character, Kelly, is determined to preserve the memory of her brother before the oncoming storm floods their home’s basement and destroys his possessions. This goal is confounded by Jones’s character Amanda, who, after dating and dumping Danny in high school, has gone on to become a successful author on the strength of a book based on her relationship with Danny and his family. When she walks into the family’s home on the eve of the flood, Sage said, Kelly is initially very excited to see her, while Danny’s mother Roberta, played by Tamarkin, is less welcoming, since she blames Danny’s post-high school depression on Amanda.
“[Roberta] is a challenging role to play,” Tamarkin said. “Roberta is a pitbull. I’ve got a little bit of that in me maybe, but not very much.”
Of her character, Jones said Amanda’s motivations in the play are often unclear. While Amanda initially seems to want merely to pay her last respects to Danny, Sage said, her goals become much more complex as they show goes on. The stakes for Amanda are just as high as they are for Kelly and Roberta, Jones said.
Although she declined to elaborate out of a desire to maintain suspense, Sage said that one of the show’s characters will be forced to make “the ultimate sacrifice” out of responsibility to her deceased loved one.
In a press release, Brant said he hopes his script can help audience members examine guilt and loss in their own lives, just as the characters will confront it on stage.
“If [viewers] leave the play with a determination to sort through the guilt and regret in their own lives in order to release themselves from any emotional impediments to their happiness, well, then that would be wonderful,” Brant said.
Theatre 4 Executive Director Susan Clark said the show is part of Theatre 4’s practice of performing in non-traditional spaces. The show will be staged in a repurposed room that formerly housed an art gallery, a “theatrically raw” performance space, Clark said. In the past, Clark said, productions have been staged in hotel lobbies and coffee shops.
The play will run through May 6, with showings Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.