This was simply lovely. The Apple family is back, having a Zoon conversation in the time of COVID-19. They’re older, feeling their mortality, and making plans for the future. They’re fractured, frustrating, supportive, questioning, afraid, brave and all the wonderfully complicated things that a family can be, especially siblings.
This is a masterwork . . . . do go online and spend an hour, once more, with the Apple family. You’ll thank yourself.
Barbara (Maryann Plunkett), the oldest, has been released from the hospital; their brother Richard (Jay O. Sanders) has been staying in her house since quarantine began. The call is on the day she has been released. Joining in the call are Jane (Sally Murphy), the youngest; her live-in partner Tim (Stephen Kunken); and Marian (Laila Robins). Tim is quarantined in a bedroom at his and Jane’s house, and Marian is alone.
A sixth character is a recording of their late Uncle Benjamin (voiced by Jon DeVries in a recording).
All the awkwardness of Zoom conversations is in this piece, and it is done so naturally, you find yourself, at one point, wanting to point out to Barbara and Richard how to reposition the camera so that the meal he cooked for her shows up more clearly. It’s such a deftly homey touch.
The current isolation and pandemic is on their minds, but they cope by each telling a story; hence, from Barbara, who is delving deeply into genealogy, we hear a poem recited by their uncle; it’s a lovely and subtle reminder that everyone matters.
But for the most part, they talk about their lives—Richard is retiring and planning on taking up gardening, and possibly cooking. Jane is flummoxed by this—even though the youngest, and the one you might expect to be most comfortable with change, she keeps asking what he’ll do and why retired? He’s only 67. And Jane has not yet been out to the grocery store. She is gently urged by Marian to be brave and mask and glove up and go; there’s almost a certain fatality to Marian (she has lost a child), yet something very indomitable about her. She also gets off one of the funniest lines about shopping early in the morning when the grocery is full of old people, which she wryly acknowledges, actually fits her.
The performances are finely calibrated, and somehow in the intimacy of the Zoom frames, the characters seem so rich and layered that it’s almost heartbreaking. Here you are, watching this family check in on each other and metaphorically join hands, and it’s so very intimate.
The conversation isn’t earth-shattering while it’s happening. But the underlying theme of connection through our stories and shared humanity is luminously clear. Writer and director Richard Nelson has given us a great gift with this gorgeous work.
This is a masterwork. It’s hopeful and sad and loving and at times a little trite, as all family conversations are, yet it envelops you in the warmth and connection of this family. It only runs until Sunday, so do go online and spend an hour, once more, with the Apple family. You’ll thank yourself. And maybe you’ll look at your own family with a bit more generosity and kindness.
Running Time: One hour with no intermission.
For More Information: ‘What Do We Need To Talk About? Conservations on Zoom’ runs through Sunday, May 3, 2020, streaming free online here.