Goodbye Ruby Tuesday by EM Lewis is an examination of one woman's desperation filtered through the prism of her life as it is, the way it was, and the hope, however vague, of finding what's missing. On the surface, nothing seems terribly wrong. Her husband loves her, as do her parents in their singular fashions. Her mom is a religious fanatic who still imposes Hail Marys on her children for bad language, even though both are adults. Dad is a stereotypical paterfamilias who depends on his wife to take care of his everyday needs but seems a bit in her way since he retired. Brother is needy, and he appears to want Lynn to stay in their small Oregon town to support him. He is in love with Gary (Rusty Gunther) but hasn't had the nerve to come out to his parents, so he's still sneaking around.
And, while it doesn't sound much like it from what I've said above, this is a comedy, and a good one. The play was a finalist in HotCity's annual Greenhouse Festival in 2008 (where new scripts are workshopped) and has wended its way back to St. Louis for its premiere. At first, I found it difficult to be patient with Lynn, but as the story progressed, I began to feel her, even though I didn't get her on any kind of rational level. We do know that her family's concerns are informed by an incident 10 years ago when Lynn was 17 and maybe tried to commit suicide. Kelly dragged her out of the tub. Her husband reminds of her that when he proposed, she swam too far out in his dad's pond and he had to pull her back. Does she need a man to save her again?
This is a remarkable cast. Angeli conveys the proper combination of regret, caring and bemusement to deliver a woman in conflict with herself to whom we can relate. Billo is very funny as her egg-obsessed mother (you'll need to see it to get that reference) and Hanrahan is appealing as the rumpled dad who doesn't have a clue what to do, but since Lynn wants to fish, he brings out their old fishing gear and suggests they go out to the local fishing hole. Barron strikes the balance between neurotic and sympathetic, aided by Gunther's mature performance as his lover. White is only onstage for about a third of what is already a very short play (70 minutes) but he makes an impression as the baffled husband in love with a woman who says she does love him, but cannot stay any longer.
Bill Whitaker clearly works well with his actors as they move naturally around the well appointed set (Sean Savoie) of kitchen and bathroom, both of which are fully functional. Billo cooks, Angeli makes coffee, and cheery yellows and placid blues represent the sunny side of life that Margie espouses and the depression that seems to beset Lynn, respectively. Michael Sullivan's lights show the family in full illumination most of the time, and Jane Sullivan's costumes are especially appropriate for Margie who looks older than Billo and frumpy in her burgundy pants outfit. Zoe Sullivan designed the sound, including lots of "I gotta get out of this place" kinds of songs such as "(I can't get no) Satisfaction," "The Sunshine of Your Love," and of course, the title song which leads us into the action.
There is a basic argument among the entire group as to whether change is bad or good, at least at first, and it's up to each of us to decide where we want to go in our own lives. You may well get some insights on how to think about that if you stop by the Hallaby house as Lynn is getting ready to go north to Alaska.