The Shadow Box

Hailing from Hardin-Simmons University in Texas, The Shadow Box is a reflection of the stages of grief, represented through a series of linked vignettes and monologues. Set amongst a small collection of cottages, which form a hospice of sorts, we meet three separate families and gain insight into how each of them is responding to the impending death of three different loved ones. 

The writing is truly touching and shows real insight into the stages of grief

Starting with Joe, a likeable seemingly middle aged man who is visited by his wife and son, the show starts with his questioning by the “interviewer”: a probing voice who provides the platform for the characters to muse on their feelings to the audience. This is a strong and evocative start to the show, and Dakota Davis plays it with a likeable tenderness. This same feeling continues with our next sequence, where we meet terminally ill Brian, his lover Mark and his estranged former wife Beverley. Brenna Sheridan as Beverley quickly becomes a highlight of the show, playing the heavily-sparkling, sharp-tongued ex-wife with an impressively natural charm and ease. By the time we move on to our third family, dementia suffering Felicity and her doting, under-appreciated daughter Agnes my expectations have been raised and so their slightly clunky and and not quite age appropriate acting is a little bit disappointing. It’s a demanding ask of Vanessa Salazar to portray the elderly character, and although her physicality starts strong, it soon becomes a little muddled and placing her age becomes more difficult as some choices are too ambiguous.

It’s hard not to be touched by the central story that run through this play, one of hope and denial in the face of inevitable loss. Michael Cristoffer’s writing is truly touching and shows real insight into the stages of grief. With the theatre being a thrust stage, some elements of the dialogue were a little blocked out, and it seems a shame that this resulted in losing chunks of what potentially were some lovely scenes. Some of the actors I predict will become more natural and engaging as they further familiarise themselves with the text and relax into their roles a little more. This show is sure to strengthen over the course of its run and when it does it really will be a touching account of the human condition in the face of losing a loved one.

Reviews by Hannah Lucy Baker

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The Blurb

Taking place over 24 hours, in separate cottages on the grounds of a large hospital, three stories unfold. Joe is joined at the cottage by his wife Maggie and their teenage son, Steve, who has not yet been told of his father’s terminal condition. The second family consists of Brian, who is brutally frank about his illness, Mark, his lover, and Beverly, Brian’s unreserved ex-wife. The third family involves a dutiful daughter, Agnes, and her feisty mother, Felicity, who suffers from dementia.