Under a sunless frozen sky, a middle-aged schizophrenic calls her dyspeptic mother from a pay phone a block from the mother’s home. In a bedroom in a comfortable home, father is dead, mother is absent and a blackhearted young man is planning to do unspeakable things to his little brother. Along the stygian river that runs through town, a massive roughhewn dockworker cries out for the love he cannot find and couldn’t handle if he did find it. Everywhere, high drama is about to be informed by high art. Ladies and gentlemen, Theater Alliance is back.
For those who feared that Jeremy Skidmore’s departure asArtistic Director, followed as it was by an extended hiatus by the company from the world of drama, meant that Theater Alliance had abandoned its commitment to difficult, high-concept theater realized through superb acting, worry no further. The Bread of Winter is in the tradition of [Sic], Mary’s Wedding, You Are Here, Headsman’s Holiday, Gross Indecencies, and Ambition Facing West, and is every bit as good as those plays.
The Bread of Winter is a story about loneliness. In it, Libby (Amy McWilliams) is a schizophrenic who, unless she takes her soul-deadening medication, hears voices which hurl her inadequacies at her. She has lost her job as a housekeeper in a horror of a home because the mother, in one of her rare appearances, found Libby in a fugue state. Fruitlessly, she seeks comfort from her own hard-headed mother Gert (Rosemary Regan), who does not understand Libby’s illness but hates the effect it has had on her. Libby misses her paycheck, of course, but misses Gregory (William Beech), the younger of the absent mother’s two children, even more. Unbeknownst to her, Gregory, who seems about thirteen, is being molested by his brother Richard (Ben Kingsland), who is perhaps two years older. On her way back from her mother’s, Libby picks up Jack, a dockworker (Richard Pelzman), and invites him home for dinner. After a few dates, they stand on the threshold of physical love. But, although they are at a stage where sex serves as a defense against death, darkness and loneliness prevail. Jack manages to talk Libby out of her bra. You will be astonished at what happens next.