The Tin Woman Review
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Ross, CA 94957
The Tin Woman—A Matter of Heart
Jesse Lumb as Jack, Isabelle Grimm as Sammy and Joanna Cretella as Joy in The Tin Woman
Review by Judith M. Wilson
Photos by Robin Jackson
Organ transplant is a weighty subject and unlikely fodder for an evening of theater. And yet it’s the subject under scrutiny in playwright Sean Grennan’s The Tin Woman, the Ross Valley Players’ current production. It’s billed as a comedy, and Greenan gives it a thoughtful, light-handed touch, and the humor and good acting make the play an engaging experience for the audience.
In the first scene, a woman named Joy awakens in a hospital bed with a young man hovering over her, and she discovers she’s had a heart transplant. Instead of feeling joy or even relief as she recovers, though, she finds herself dealing with depression, as she struggles to make sense of the unexpected direction her life has taken and wonders how she can ever be worthy of such a generous gift. Eventually, at the prodding of a caring friend, she contacts members of the donor’s family and decides to visit them. It’s a meeting that puts the spotlight on the intense suffering a family experiences after suddenly losing a loved one, as each individual looks for a way to cope with overwhelming emotions.
Joanna Cretalla (above) plays Joy, and she’s adept at conveying her character’s mood swings, as she seeks to put a life she thought was over back on track. Ellen Brooks turns in a powerful performance as Ellen, the mother of Jack, the heart donor, who shows remarkable understanding and compassion in the face of grief. Keith Jefferds is Hank, her husband, and he too has a demanding role as he slowly peels back the layers of a character who is more complicated than he first appears. Isabelle Grimm portrays Jack’s sister Sammy, and she’s the comic relief, who seems silly on the surface, but has a kind of wisdom that helps her connect with others. Sumi Narendran Cardinale (right, with Joanna Cretalla as Joy) plays two roles, Joy’s nurse and her friend Darla, and as always she’s a pleasure to watch. Rounding out the cast is Jesse Lumb as Jack, and he has a challenging role, because he has limited dialog, making his gestures and facial expressions all the more important.
(l. to r.) Jesse Lumb as Jack, Sumi Narendran Cardinale as Darla and Joanna Cretella as Joy
Director Michael Barr says he found it interesting to see the various characters’ different reactions to the same event. He points out that the play jumps around in style and time, and he believes it’s a technique that keeps the audience on edge, but in a good way. Humor serves to both lighten tension and bolster it, and “Things continue to reveal themselves,” he says, adding depth to the play.
Set designer Ron Krempetz makes good use of the Barn Theatre’s small stage to show the various locations— Joy’s hospital room, her apartment, the home of Jack’s family and a graveyard—without major changes.
The title is a reference to the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, who wanted a heart. The word heart is one of life’s great metaphors, and Grennan uses it both literally and figuratively, leaving the audience to contemplate its meaning. “It’s a beautiful story,” says Barr.
The Tin Woman Plays Thursday through Sunday until June 10, at the Marin Art & Garden Center in Ross. For times and availability of tickets go to www.rossvalleyplayuers.com or call the box office at 415-456-9555.
Hank Jefferds as Hank, Isabelle Grimm as Sammy, Jesse Lumb as Jack and Ellen Brooks as Alice