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Provocative Drama Explores Complicated Family Dynamics

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Jacqueline Laggy, Kim Ostrenko and Jenna Wyatt star in “Communion,” opening Jan. 24 at Empire Stage. Credit: Lloyd’s Studio.

Many families have some occasional drama, but most don’t approach the level of dysfunction revealed in Daniel MacIvor’s play “Communion.”

Primal Forces theater will present the GLAAD award-winning play Jan. 24 – Feb. 11 at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale and artistic director Keith Garsson predicts audiences may breathe a sigh of relief as they exit the theater.

“I hope they will watch this show and say, ‘Wow, my family isn’t as disjointed as this…if they can come to terms, maybe we should be able to.’ I hope folks whose moms are still around will go home and call their mothers,” he said.

The family includes a lesbian psychiatrist, an alcoholic mother and her evangelical daughter, who form a tense triangle.

The distance between recovering alcoholic Leda (Kim Ostrenko) and her born-again daughter (Jenna Wyatt1) is filled with silence, anger and humor: 

Upon the advice of a therapist (Jaqueline Laggy) dealing with her own host of troubles, Leda tries to bridge that distance and prepare her daughter for the calamity just ahead. “Communion” explores the inescapable dark places of relationships and what is needed to repair a familial bond under the pressures of religion, recovery and a proverbial ticking clock, according to the play’s synopsis.

According to Garsson, MacIvor “writes fantastic women’s roles. The dialogue fits these three women like a glove. He (also) seems to focus on characters that are so independent, there’s rarely any kind of reconciliation or agreement between them.”

He added, “All the paths he takes are fascinating and, in a way, these plays are designed for tiny black box stages,” like Empire Stage, the company’s new home after Andrews Living Arts shuttered unexpectedly last fall. “If we had done incredible sets, it would have been wrong. His plays require unpopulated stark sets, it’s really about the three actors and the characters.”

Garsson credits friends in Toronto for alerting him to the gay Canadian playwright’s work.

“I have friends who live all over who are theater people. If they see some offbeat, crazy thing, they’ll send me an email,” he said. “So often they’re not producible or too big, but that can send me off into another tangent, looking into other things the playwright has done…and that’s exactly what happened with (‘Communion’).”

After some reflection, Garsson offered a surprising assessment of the provocative drama: “This may be one of the slightly more conventional plays we’ve done.”

Primal Forces presents Daniel MacIvor’s “Communion” Jan. 24 – Feb. 11 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Drive in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $30 at PrimalForces.com.


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