A novelist, memoirist, and playwright, Monica Wood often draws from her own experiences to tell her stories. Recovering from tragedy, she reportedly told part of her own story in THE HALF-LIGHT, which premiered in 2019 in Portland, Maine. The recipient of the Maine Humanities Council Carson Prize and the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Distinguished Achievement Award, Wood currently lives with her husband in Maine, where she continues to write. Theatre Forty is proud to present her second play, THE HALF-LIGHT, making its West Coast premiere in 2023.
The time is the present (over the course of a year and a half), and the place is in and near a small branch university, probably in Maine. Iris (Ivy Khan), her friend and confidante Helen (Stephanie Erb), and Andrew (Grinnell Morris), a professor of Irish literature, all work at the university. The divorced Ivy has always kept her profile low and her feelings (and one surprising skill) undercover – until she meets a noted elderly psychic who sees in her a kindred spirit and offers to train her so that she can understand psychic phenomena and even seek out ghosts. But her mentor dies before her training is complete – and she must develop her latent skills on her own. When Andrew’s entire family dies in a tragic accident, Iris is faced with her greatest challenge – drawing Andrew out of his depression and back to the world of the living and breathing.
Meanwhile, her bestie Helen is more concerned about Iris’ love life – and, now that Andrew is single again, he might just be the perfect match. But Helen has her own problems. She has been estranged from her alcoholic daughter Teresa (Abigail Stewart) from over a year; and Helen’s pain has made it impossible for her to forgive and forget. Teresa just happens to live in a haunted house. Clearly, Iris will soon be called upon to face her fears and step up to the multiple challenges around her.
Director Ann Hearn Tobolowsky helms the play with compassion and sensitivity. The principals do an excellent job of digging into their characters and presenting rounded human beings forced to deal with loss and terrible tragedy. The production team surrounds the quartet with an environment to match their journey. Jeff G. Rack’s set, Michael Mullen’s costumes, Derrick McDaniel’s lighting, Nick Foran’s sound, and Benjamin Rock’s projections complement this sometimes mystical tale.
THE HALF-LIGHT will definitely appeal to people who have lived with loss and even unthinkable tragedy, but it will also prove fascinating as a study of individuals trying to play with the hand they are dealt – even if that hand is sometimes less than optimal and even depressing. At the same time, each character remains eminently human and can even offer the audience a chuckle now and then. To quote the Portland Press-Herald 2019 review, “…A sweet and sentimental amalgam of office politics, family drama, and romantic comedy, all tied together with poetic imagery and a shadowy mysticism. The play’s message warms the heart. THE HALF-LIGHT enchants.”
THE HALF-LIGHT runs through December 17, 2023, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, at 2 p.m. on Sundays, and at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, 12/4 and 12/11 (dark on 11/23 and 11/24). Theatre Forty is located at the Mary Levin Cutler Theatre in Beverly Hills High School, 241 S. Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills, CA. Tickets are $35. For information and reservations, call 310-364-0535 or go online.