Guest review of weeks one and two of the playwrights festival

Review by Clair Enlow

Better together

Two women, a goddess and a mortal one, try to get it right in marital dramas
At Burien Actors Theatre

In two plays at Burien Actors Theatre, Hera and Carol are being themselves, trying to make things better in that most ubiquitous and freighted of human relationships, marriage.

They Walk Among Us, by Kirsten McCory, is a half-hour one-act. The main course is a full-length play, Escorting Tom, by Duane Kelly. They are presented as a double header, running through April 23, at Burien Actors Theatre (BAT), 14501 4th Ave SW, Burien, as part of BAT’s 2017 Playwrights Festival. A different pairing of shows, Winter People and The Law of the Sea, will run from April 28-May 7 in the Festival.

Two couples are muddling through to an unknown end, mixing the storied and eternal with the brutally and hilariously real. It’s a rich evening of laughs and moving moments, mixing the timeless with the heartbreakingly temporal, ancient with modern.

They Walk Among Us brings us Zeus and Hera (yep, none other than the couple at the top of the ancient Greek pantheon) living in an American suburb and dealing with—what else—their marital issues. Only she’s doing all the emotional heavy lifting (sound familiar?) and he is the issue: a compulsive womanizer who is simply being himself. She struggles to improve him or adapt to him, with the help of her therapist. But in the beginning, as in the end, she is herself, too—an unchanging and unchanged being.

After an intermission comes the main course, Escorting Tom, about a modern couple facing the final segment of life, with no certainty. Tom and Carol are stuck somewhere between life and death, love and loss, one life and the next. Clueless and knowing, respectively, they try to negotiate with fate and win, and Carol enlists the help of a professional. Escorting Tom is a comic setup that the Burien group exploits to the brim, with tragic undertones and ribald moments (condoms from Costco?).

Both plays have just three characters: a couple with a woman as protagonist, in control of herself and trying to steer the marital ship, with a loose cannon of a husband on deck. Hera and Carol each make projects of their men and their respective relationships. The third role in both plays happens to be a female foil, brought into the story because her counterpart within the couple is just trying to get expert help. Goddess Hera’s all-too-human goals are utterly futile. As the erstwhile protagonist in , Carol’s lawyerly strategies are applied with very mixed results, but with life-affirming effects in the end. It makes us glad we are living in the modern world, after all.

-Clair Enlow

Disclosure: Clair Enlow is Duane Kelly’s life partner

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