Mary Bacon, Michéal Richardson and Talene Monahon Photo by Spencer Moses
You would think that Maine would be so far off the beaten path that they would have little drug trafficking or substance abuse, however drug addiction is prevalent in Maine. Over the years, pharmaceutical drugs have been in the news in Maine, especially prescription opioid addictions .
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Chad Beckim’s Nothing Gold Can Stay, named after the Robert Frost poem, shows a slice of life dealing with this addiction and the ramifications it has on a family.
High school sweethearts Jess (Talene Monahon) and Clay (Michéal Richardson, son of Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson, making his New York stage debut), are being separated, as Clay leaves to go to college. Jess, is brighter than Clay, and wanted to go to college, but is dealing with an abusive stepfather and a mother who does not protect her. Her mother didn’t even go to her daughter’s graduation. Jess will be living with Clay’s single mom, Susan (Mary Bacon), as he leaves. His sister Tanya (Adrienne Rose Bengtsson), has gotten Jess a job in a chicken factory. By the time Clay comes home from his first break, Jess is already on a downward spiral. Her self-destructive behavior has Susan calling Jess’s brother Jamie (Peter Mark Kendall), to take Jess to rehab. No sooner out of rehab, Jess’s manipulated behavior sucks in Clay, as he pays the ultimate price for loving her.
Michéal Richardson gives a delicately layered performance as Clay, but we do not see why he is so sucked in by her. That scene somehow is missing. Talene Monahon is the epitome of a girl bent on a life of escapism. We never feel sorry for her because she is so self destructive. Adrienne Rose Bengtsson adds wit and humor and another side of self destructive behavior. We root when she finally gets together with Jamie. Peter Mark Kendall, allows us to see there are good guys in this world. Mary Bacon, is the heart and the soul of this play. Her arc lets us see Susan’s forgiveness and unconditional love turn to pain and betrayal. We ache for her character.
Shelly Butler’s direction brings out the best in her cast. The set design by Jason Sims allows the small space to take us inside this world. Karen Spahn’s lighting design keeps us in the fractured lives of this community.
Beckim’s writing captures the struggles of this community with a little bit of humor. These people may not have much and are living to make ends meet, but we see the tiny moments of pleasure they have playing card games. What Beckim doesn’t show us is why Clay ditched his life. One moment he is ready to leave and the next he is a hard core junkie. How did this happen?
Nothing Gold Can Say shows us the crisis in America in this gut wrenching play.
Nothing Gold Can Say: Partial Comfort Productions at The Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre at The A.R.T./New York Theatres, 502 West 53rd St. until Oct. 26th.