by Douglas Konecky, September 10, 2017
Rebecca Gilman has tapped into some of our deepest fears about the way our society deals with our most vulnerable citizens. Here we are talking about the impossible job our social workers have been given to determine the fate of children at risk. Karlie (Alix Caudra) and Peter (Devin S. O'Brien) are meth addicts. They are also the young parents of infant Luna Gale, who has been brought to the Iowa hospital in a compromised, dehydrated condition.
The baby must be taken away from the parents, but to whom should she be entrusted? Currently she is being cared for by Karlie's mother Cindy (Laura Jane Bailey, in a terrific role), but Cindy is a Jesus Freak convinced the end days have arrived. Everyone agrees the foster home system is a complete disaster and must be avoided at all costs. The only way the parents can be reunited with their daughter is to cycle through a series of counseling and rehab, except these programs have been overwhelmed and have no openings. And anyway, MOM (Mothers off Meth) is not going to do anyone much good.
So it all comes down to a judgement call made by the social worker. Jamie Jones plays Caroline, a devoted twenty-five year veteran who is counting the days until her own retirement. Whatever she reports will most likely be agreed to by the judge who makes the final decision, but Caroline understands there are no good solutions. Everyone is flawed, and so is she.
We loved Kevin Kamp as Pastor Jay, which is to say we hated Pastor Jay for his supercilious piety. We also loved Bailey's portrayal of Cindy as someone who has exchanged loneliness for her church. The key line in the show is when the pastor tells Caroline "God will show you love whether you want it or not!" Caroline, who was molested as a child, says "That sounds just like my f***ing father."
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division is happy to grant "Luna Gale" THREE STARS with a BANGLE OF PRAISE. Gilman's writing, the ensemble of actors, direction by Tom Ross and perfect set by Kate Boyd keep us on the edge of our seats for two long acts.
The Social Welfare system is a reflection on ourselves. It is terribly inadequate but as a society we have decided we will do no more for our poor. The Bangle of Praise is for the way Gilman forces us to think about all the unfortunate people trapped inside this terrible nightmare.