Thrown Stone Theatre Company, Ridgefield: As its name suggests, Thrown Stone Theatre Company has opened a play that skips across generations and across the memories of our lives like pebbles tossed in perpetual circles. Ross Dunsmore’s play “Milk” is a perfect choice for this fledgling theatre group. Making its U.S. debut, the play is exquisitely written and expertly directed by Jason Peck. It is a play that defies you to forget its urgency. Peck punctuates the action with a minimal set, but highly effective props. Two red chairs and two metal tables convey a lot of symbolism when they face each other or lie criss-crossed on the floor. When actors bang the tables hard, anger and frustration are at boiling points. When the chairs are positioned on the floor upside down and sideways, so too are the characters’ thoughts and emotions.
Ultimately, “Milk” is about the hunger for love. It is life’s succulent liquid whether flowing from the breast of a young mother, fed to a babe with a bottle, or helping the elderly ward off starvation. More importantly it is a metaphor for the essential need for love, which human beings desire and seek continually throughout their lives. “Milk is love” states one actor.
There are three couples. The boy and girl are teenagers. They are 14 years old. Steph is desperate to be loved. She keeps trying to seduce her boyfriend Ash, who is either not ready or annoyed by her tactics. She taunts him about her love for one of their male teachers. Alexandra Perlwitz creates a naughty character without alienating Steph from the audience. Rather she endears the audience to her. We feel her need and are empathetic to her risky attempts for satisfaction. Aidan Meachem plays her teen heartthrob Ash. His reluctance to submit to her desire keeps the tension of the play high.
The second couple is a middle aged couple. Alana Arco first plays Nicole, a pregnant woman excited about having a baby, but worried that the baby won’t love her. When she does give birth, she becomes obsessed with breastfeeding. Her husband Danny played by Jonathan Winn is a husband with plenty on his mind. His patience heightens the tension in this couple’s scenes.
It is an elderly couple that faces the most difficulties. Cyrus Newitt plays Cyril, a war veteran who is afraid to step foot out of his door. He is sure that the enemy is out there. He and his wife May, played by Melody James, are near starvation. They have a real hunger for food as well as for love. Newitt keeps the tension alive and believable through his fear. James contributes to the tension with her ability to forgive her husband whenever he fails at his attempts to get food.
Tension runs through all three couples and it is this that keeps the audience spellbound. Playwright Dunsmore has a keen sense of time’s passage and its toll on humanity. Director Peck keeps the integrity of the author intact while emphasizing the love factor.
Overall, this is a finely polished production with top talents and superior performances. If this is the kind of new work that Thrown Stone Theatre intends to produce, then sign me up. This is provocative theater at its best.
Please note that there is adult language and subject matter. This production plays through Aug. 5. It has been extended twice already. Don’t miss out on this intimate black box experience. Contact thrownstone.org or 203-442-1714 (voicemail) for details.
Note: Aug. 3 show “nearly sold out,” reported artistic directors Jason Peck and Jonathan Winn on Wed. morning, Aug. 2. Broadway World called the production: “a riveting experience that grips your heart and doesn’t let go.”
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]