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Family Secrets

Till We Meet Again

By Glory Kadigan

Reviewed by Robert Viagas

The new Off-Off-Broadway drama Till We Meet Again starts out like a pleasant family comedy with a crusty grandpa and a sweet and dotty grandma taking care of a precocious and wisecracking granddaughter. But somewhere along the way that mask slips off. Deeply buried secrets rise to the surface, unexpected connections between characters appear, violence erupts, and the cute-as-a-button little girl turns out to have the strongest backbone and the keenest understanding of humanity of them all.

50073963_522640818245117_2767030382640496640_n.jpgDirected with a sure hand by Tony-winning actress Tonya Pinkins (who does not appear in the play), Till We Meet Again  is structured around a series of school papers being written by the granddaughter (a multi dexterous Mehret Marsh) who is studying World War II at school. She interviews her grandparents as part of her research, and those interviews awaken ghosts of the past, including one literal one. A long-ago misunderstanding and a misplaced sense of duty may have thrown a switch that sent the grandfather’s entire life careening down the wrong track—or perhaps it was the right track after all. Visiting the road not taken is always a tricky proposition.

There are many layers to the character of the grandmother, and June Ballinger plays them all: funny, flirtatious and earnest, but underneath determined and even dangerous.  David L. Carson must play the grandfather as a man slipping into dementia—or is he? Are his memories of a lost love (Gina LeMoine) hallucinations? Agonizing memories? Or actual hauntings?

Jumping continually in time and space on a nearly bare playing space, this production could easily have become a muddle without Pinkins’ smart staging. She’s made a strong choice with this play, which asks what price is paid when we do what duty requires at the cost of what our heart desires. It’s a big question.

Till We Meet Again, which also features performances by Mary Monahan and Perri Yaniv, is scheduled to play at the 14thStreet Y through January 26, but deserves a life beyond this production.

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