Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
It was a dark and stormy night Saturday as we drove out to Owosso to see the OCP (Owosso Community Players) current drama, Marvin’s Room by Scott McPherson. One could comment that the weather was a good preamble to the story about to unfold on the Lebowsky Center stage. In truth, the story told in this play is dark, but it also harbors light and hope.
Beginning in Florida, we find Bessie (Debie Lundeen) nervously seated in a doctor’s office as a slightly fumbling Dr. Wally (Ben Cassidy) fills in for Bessie’s usual doctor. There is comedy here right off the bat as Dr. Wally seems confused as to who exactly he is treating, cannot locate all the blood testing tools and lets slip that there is a bug infestation in the building. Okay, we see that there will be a sense of humor at work here.
Bessie is a caregiver. She has been responsible for her father who she says has been dying for 20 years, and for her aunt Ruth who has a back injury being treated electronically and wears a lavaliere control around her neck. Ruth (Deb Knipe) is sweet and funny as she complains that though the contraption works well, it also sets off the garage door opener every time she uses it.
We never see Marvin. His room is behind opaque glass upstage but we see the flashing light he enjoys as the sunlight reflects off a mirror.
When Bessie finds out that her “vitamin deficiency” is in reality leukemia, she is told to contact family for possible bone marrow donors. But her only relative is an estranged sister in Ohio with whom she’s had no contact for years. Still, she reaches out.
Lee (Lyn Freeman) has had a bit of a topsy-turvy life and is introduced as a gruff and angry woman, but we feel her pain. She has one 17-year-old son, Hank (Ayden Soupal) who is in a mental institution since burning the house down. She also has a younger son, Charlie (Evan Worden) who reads constantly and says little.
Soupal brings an amazing depth to this troubled young man. His performance is both disturbing and touching. So we have a divided family, nearly opposite in temperament, now joined to focus on a hopeful outcome. It’s not an easy road.
Bessie is the heart of this story. She is compassionate and caring, and her selflessness not only contrasts with the selfishness around her, but it subtly transforms her sister and her angry nephew. It’s all about family and the ultimate wonder that Bessie’s kindness bestows.
There is not a weak link in this show. Director Stephanie Banghart has managed to bring a blend of just the right amount of pathos and wit to this performance. Each characterization is full and unnervingly believable. We only wish more folks had braved Saturday’s downpour to come out and see this ultimately heartwarming tale.
Marvin’s Room continues at The Lebowsky Center for Performing Arts October 27 and November 1, 2, and 3. For more information and tickets contact the box office at 989-723-4003 or online at lebowskycenter.com