Leave it to Inis Nua, the theater company whose name means “New Island” and is dedicated to producing plays from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Once again they have provided us with the American premiere of a remarkable play by Zinnie Harris.
The generally accepted psychological wisdom is that people in profound grief—“extreme widowhood”— go through five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. And that is the structure of Meet Me at Dawn, a short, biting play, although it seems to risk spoiler to say even that much, since one of the pleasures of watching this play is the way the realization of what’s happening creeps up on you. “Oh, I see” happens over and over again.
But much of the time we are mystified. What we do know is that two women, Robyn (the excellent Hannah Gold) and Helen (Jackie Soro who needs to stop fiddling with her hair) find themselves on a little beach after a boating accident. There are two huge boulders and sand and ominous clouds above (great set by Jillian Keys). But who is the woman without a phone? Is Robyn, who we learn has always been a catastrophist with a gothic imagination, going crazy? Has she fantasized the beach or fantasized the kitchen with the sink overflowing? Is the old woman who sleeps in her garage her future self? Is the moth a symbol or just a moth? Do wishes come true only in fairy tales? Is memory a parallel universe?
Gold’s command of the Scottish accent is impressive and her incremental passion absolutely persuasive. Under Sam Tower’s direction, the clues are doled out for us at a clever, measured pace, leaving us with a final, satisfying “Oh, I see” at the end.
[Inis Nua at the Louis Bluver Theater at the Drake, 302 S. Hicks Street] February 15-March 5, 2023; inisnuatheatre.org