Magic ?Touch(ed)?

By By Devin Richey

By Devin Richey

“Touch(ed)” is a new, darkly comedic and dramatic play, the third play written by Bess Wohl and her first performed by the Pioneer Theatre Company. The story revolves around two sisters, one of whom has spent years in a mental health institution after multiple suicide attempts. Retreating to a secluded cabin in the woods to get reacquainted, the other sister and her boyfriend attempt to comfort and support the mentally unstable sister through her healing process.

Emma, played by Kelly Hutchinson8212;both haunting and comedic in her scenes8212;is given a temporary leave from the institution to take the trip, which both excites and terrifies her sister Kay, played by Jennifer Joan Thompson. Kay assumes responsibility for Emma’s problems and wants to provide a relaxing and stigma-free experience by hiding anything in the cabin that could trigger bad memories or remind her sister of her issues.

The comedy in the play comes from her and her boyfriend’s gross inability to manage that task. From the moment Emma walks in the door, she is confronted by blood, knives and a constant string of one verbal faux pas after the other, along the lines of “you’d have to be crazy to…” that seem to affect the embarrassed Kay more than Emma.

The actors show a great talent for comedic timing, but they are able to effortlessly flow into intensely dramatic scenes.

Wohl wanted to question and comment on the role that family members have in supporting each other during difficult times and the effects of self-sacrifice needed to carry out that role. She succeeds in showing both the accomplishment and failure of that feat by Kay and her boyfriend, Billy, portrayed by Alex Podulke, who know that they have taken a gamble by bringing Emma out from the watchful eyes of her doctor8212;played by Dennis Parlato8212;and that failure to properly care for her could lead to tragedy. They do so anyway in hope of a possible recovery and a return to normalcy from the condition that haunts Kay as much as it does her afflicted sister.

This is the fourth play of Pioneer Theatre Company’s 2009-2010 season and the first in its New Plays Initiative, an effort by the company to showcase new talent and material in a medium that is consumed by tried-and-true shows. The title of the play, “Touch(ed),” refers to many nuances of the word, including how some people are gifted with natural talents8212;such as Emma’s ability to write poetry8212;and the impact that people can have on each other for better and for worse. By the end, each character causes and experiences profound change, which should resonate with the audience.

Directed by Charles Morey, Wohl’s play succeeds in creating compelling characters and gaining the audience’s sympathy and concern while still maintaining a true-to-life ending that isn’t wholly happy8212;or perhaps isn’t an ending at all.

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Photo courtesy Alexander Weisman

Kelly Hutchinson and Jennifer Joan Thompson act out a scene form ?Touch(ed).? The play will be the fourth of the season for Pioneer Theatre Company?s 2009-2010 season.