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Elderly Couple Combs Through Their Dark Past in 'Askance' at Eclectic Company Theatre

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Kenlyn Kanouse and Joseph Cardinale look at their lives "Askance" in a new play at the Eclectic (Photo: David Nott)
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William Faulkner's injunction that "the past is never dead; it's not even past" gets unpacked to powerful effect in Kerr Seth Lordygan's new play "Askance" at the Eclectic Company Theatre.

The night before a retirement home is about to close down, the imminent dislodgment of resident couple Milly and Irving (Kenlyn Kanouse and Joseph Cardinale) prompts them to start musing aloud on long-unmentioned events in their lives together, which play out before the audience in flashback scenes featuring their much younger selves (Beth Ricketson and Adam Coggins). Before long, of course, these reminiscences turn into recriminations. The initial meet-cute scenario of the couple's courtship and early marriage gives way to episodes of betrayal and ultimately wreckage of other lives in their orbit. Then, the next morning, the hidden consequences of their misdeeds of half a century ago are shockingly brought home to them just moments before they are about to leave their home for good.

If the plot mechanics of Lordygan's play are perhaps a little contrived, the culminating revelation they deliver is still a genuinely devastating emotional wallop. For not only have Milly and Irving been living with a complete set of very ugly secrets, it also turns out that packing these secrets away for all these decades has amply magnified the already tragic damage wrought by Milly and Irving's almost-forgotten actions.

The Eclectic Company reliably serves the new plays they premiere with richly thoughtful ensemble cast performances. Standouts here include Ricketson as the young Milly, Taylor Asbrook and RJ Farrington as the nursing home's staffers, Ivy Jones as a seemingly-disjointed elderly resident and Michael Tatlock as the son who comes to get her.

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"Askance," directed by Sabrina Lloyd, plays Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m. through February 12. Additional 8 p.m. Thursday performances tonight, January 19 and February 9. "Pay what you can" tickets available at the door tonight and January 15, 19 and 29. Otherwise, tickets are $28 (students and seniors $23), though $16.50 tickets are available for some performances on goldstar.