Secrets left untold, sins left unconfessed and fears left unfaced – our past can haunt us like a phantom in the night. A story of healing and forgiveness of oneself and others, Conversations I’ve Never Had presented by Catholic University’s MFA drama department, is a classic example of art imitating life and life imitating art. Playwright Kathleen Burke’s Conversations I’ve Never Had is a brilliantly penned play about a playwright who writes a play about her unresolved life experiences. Even through the complexity of layered stories within this piece, Director Mary Resing brought Burke’s vision to life by tapping into the heart of the production and bringing out the depth of each character in a way that was easily interpreted.
Burke’s “play within a play” was brilliantly executed through the use of over dramatization to distinguish “theatre” from “reality.” Audiences are quickly drawn into the storyline of two newlyweds who are struggling to find their way while dealing with an overbearing but loving sister, and a lost and lonely ex-lover. Reminiscent of so many of our experiences, anyone could easily see a part of themselves in each one of the character’s personalities. Ruth’s looming guilt from her past overshadows her ability to love her husband Brad unconditionally, which creates a barrier between the married couple.
…Director Mary Resing brought Burke’s vision to life by tapping into the heart of the production and bringing out the depth of each character in a way that was easily interpreted.
Latia Stokes plays the sweet and innocent protagonist Ruth, who is faced with her own horrifying “ghosts” of her past, leaving her to make a conscious choice to face her fears in order to move forward with her budding marriage. A secretive, nervous and frazzled Ruth is completely unsure of herself-from her career to her love life. Stokes’ interpretation of a young lady in her late 20’s was spot on-and Ruth is no different than many young women in this age group that are often scared, somewhat “immature” and confused about life. We are able to tell that, albeit her sweet disposition, she is extremely defensive. Ruth has much more that she is experiencing-something deep within her that prevents her from becoming the magnificent playwright she once was and aspires to be.
Graham Pilato excellently portrays Gardner-the shadowy, ex-lover of Ruth that mysteriously appears in her changing room on her wedding day with the intention of ruining the ceremony. Relentlessly haunting Ruth throughout the play with seemingly fond memories of their torrid relationship, Gardener’s initially perceived evil, snarky personality only scratches the surface of the complicated character. My understanding of this secretive figure; he is sad, lonely, and disturbed. With his tendency to be controlling and outbursts of anger, it left me wondering-what conversations left unspoken leads Gardener to have these sporadic “moods?”
Ruth’s fiancé’ Brad, played by Kiernan McGowan brought a light-hearted mood to the stage. The perfect understanding, patient and sweet husband, he was a “rock” for Ruth, a conduit for her to be able to trust. McGowan’s portrayal of an honest, down-to-earth guy was believable, comforting and refreshing. Natasha Gallop commanded the stage as Amy-Ruth’s over-protective sister. Throughout the play she is the most stable and supportive character in Ruth’s life. She knows Ruth inside and out and has held her biggest secret; but for the unknowing outsider she appears to be bossy, critical and nosy. Credit to Stephanie Tomiko as Felicity, Anthony Papastarat as Fr. Jonah and Ciaran Farley as Barbara, who brought wonderful comic relief, superb acting chops and had the audience roaring with laughter throughout the play.
With themes we can all relate to, Conversations I’ve Never Had will leave you reflecting on your own past transgressions and looking for a way to leave more than your program booklet behind in your seat.
Advisory: Adult themes.
Running Time: 2 hours with one 10-minute intermission.
Conversations I’ve Never Had runs through February 21, 2015 at The Catholic University of America’s Hartke Theatre, 3801 Harewood Road N.E. Washington, DC 20064. To purchase tickets call 202-319-4000 or visit online.