We hit opening night of the Pasadena Playhouse’s new production, The Night Is a Child, and came away the better for it, if not exactly cheerier. This is a serious drama about how a woman and her two adult children deal with a family tragedy, and while it does have its moments of levity, it is mostly very heavy stuff.
I won’t go into plot details here, because it’s an onion of a play that requires the audience to go along for the ride and experience the story as it peels away, layer by layer. It would diminish the experience to know much beforehand.
But I can say a few things. The story bounces back and forth between Brookline, Mass. (a Boston suburb) and Ipanema Beach in Brazil. The very spare set and lighting are brilliantly designed, conveying a lot in a minimalist way. Charles Randolph-Wright’s writing is crisp, unfolding a compelling story and character arc in a short time (the play is less than two hours, including an intermission). And the six-person cast does a fine job, especially star JoBeth Williams, who plays the mother, and Sybyl Walker, who plays her Brazilian friend.
The play tackles the eternal, unanswerable question of why bad things happen to good people. It does not, of course, provide any tidy answers, but it’s a thoughtful journey down that road.
The Night Is a Child
Runs through October 4th
39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena