Edward took the wrong train, and on it, he met the wrong woman. Now, 33 years later, he’s ready to get off. In Pentacle’s newest production The Retreat From Moscow, the retreat is from a marriage, and the journey is a three-hour march through the wasteland of its ruins.
Edward has swallowed up who he is for most of his life, staying beside his vivid and forceful wife Alice, for decades. But they are mismatched, a condition that slowly drains the life, the very color from him, while fueling a frenzied desperation in her. She believes she loves him still; he knows he may never have truly loved her. He leaves. Alice refuses to let him go. And their grown son, Jamie, finds himself in a nervous misery between them, trying to clarify all the things they are too unhappy or selfish to understand.
Todd Logan fits inside both Edward’s unhappiness and his quiet rebirth much more securely than he did in his comedic role as Major Powell in last season’s Corpse!. He plays Edward’s suffering with an irreproachable intonation and an magnificently heavy expression. For the first half of the play, the man doesn‘t move a facial muscle except to speak, and the effect is wonderfully depressing. Then, when Edward survives his retreat, Logan gently brings a lightness to the character all the more impacting for its subtlety.
Robynn Hayek has the tricky job of creating just enough sympathy for her character Alice to keep her from being a clear villain, as well as adding fluidity to her constant switches between warmth and nastiness. Alice is funny, mean and tender, confident and hopeless, and Hayek maintains this balance excellently. Alice’s character is so powerful that even the audience obeys her; the humor in the script soars and dives along with whatever state of mind she is in. We laugh when she wants us too, we’re miserable when she is.
Seth Allen plays Jamie, the son who sees both parents clearly; their awfulness, their pain and their goodness, all at the same time. Allen’s Jamie is baby-faced and bewildered with the needs of his retreating father and unraveling mother. It must be difficult to portray equal parts empathy and disdain, and Allen does it well, though he does have a tendency to turn his British accent on and off throughout the play.
Though fascinating, funny and even cathartic, there is no avoiding that The Retreat From Moscow is three hours spent inside someone else’s misery. If the play is at times a drudgery, perhaps it has to be, to completely capture it‘s subject. There is a rich exploration here. The script takes no sides and all sides. It illustrates the repetition and redundancy of the impossible-to-win fights that steal the life from a relationship. The characters are not likeable, but who would be in their place? TRFM is not a pleasant play. But it is a good play.
The Retreat From Moscow runs at the Pentacle until June 20th. For more information and tickets call 503-364-7200 or visit the Pentacle website at www.pentacletheatre.org.