Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Charles Jarrett

With the production of Honour by Australian playwright Joanna Murray – Smith, director Lois Grandi returns to themes she excels at – the multiple levels of truth and irony, isolationism and self realization, and the safe stagnation of fear verses the out of control whirlwind of risk in man/woman relationships.

In the beginning of the play, Honor (Gretchen Grant) and Gus (Robert Hamm) appear to be a happily married couple. With over 30 years of history to their relationship, they take solace in knowing what each day will bring in their well-planned lives.

Before they were married, Honor had published her first novel, and Gus was on his way to becoming a famous journalist. But like many marriages of the time, Honor put her career on the back burner for her husband and their daughter Sophie. Honor never questioned her sacrifices. They seemed to be the right thing to do at the time, and they had many compensations as selfless love often does. Gus too gradually gave up the fire that originally attracted him to Honor. He didn’t fall in love with a selfless wife and mother. He fell in love with an independent woman who was pursuing a career in the world. His respect for her as a novelist is what turned him on.

But both of them only start to realize that something is lacking when a young journalist is assigned to do a story on Gus’ life. The questions Claudia (Alison Ewing) asks make Gus and Honor question their self-sacrifices. When Gus and Claudia fall for each other, the years of self-sacrifice between Gus and Honor suddenly become a rush for self-fulfillment and both of their delicately balanced lives are thrown into chaos.

Whenever we’re first confronted by change in our lives it always appears to be chaos, and this chaos is turned into excellent drama with an ironic twist in Playhouse West’s production. Like elements of nature, the characters in this play lead calm everyday lives until suddenly their earth quakes, their volcano blows and life will never be the same for them again. Indeed, what makes this drama work so well is that the author understands that she too is part of nature. She makes no judgments of right or wrong, she merely shows us the fissures in the earth, the molten lava flowing to the sea. As the audience watches the steam rise from the shoreline we realize that this is the way life is and all we can do is live it.

For tickets call (925) 942-0300.

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