Many adult children today struggle to balance their lives and families with the needs of ailing, elderly parents and relatives who can no longer care for themselves.
In “Four Places” mother Peggy (Flora Coker) is dealing with troubled daughter Ellen (Mary MacDonald Kerr) and even more troubled son Warren (Mark Ulrich) at the same time that she’s trying to care for her invalid husband. As a result, she may be endangering her husband’s life.
Amid the play’s serious allegations of physical and emotional abuse, director David Cecsarini (also Next Act’s producing artistic director) manages to keep the story’s inherent jousts and jests in balance. “Four Places” does what any good play does, slowly peels back the layers of a complex emotional situation.
Strong ensemble acting is needed to pull off the familial feuding and fence-mending. This cast works well together, maintaining an underlying tension amid the superficial niceties.
Coker and Ulrich turn in wonderfully nuanced, natural performances. Kerr keeps the emotional lid on Ellen’s underlying sorrows simmering while doing the dutiful daughter routine. Laura Gray, as the ever-upbeat waitress Barb – who takes in more than just lunch orders at the local restaurant – provides a deft balance of friendliness and shrewd observations. Nothing gets past this waitress with a past.
“Four Places” depicts a family trying to do what each member thinks is best for the other, despite sometimes unpleasant results.
After all, what’s family for anyway?