"The Women of Lockerbie" Review- A play exploring the nature of grief

Aston Rep Theatre Company is currently presenting “The Women of Lockerbie, through May 8th at The Raven Theater Complex, 6157 N. Clark, Chicago. Written by Alaskan playwright/librettist Deborah Brevoort, it is an exploration of the nature of grief, how it is experienced, how it changes over time, how it can be expiated. Directed by Artistic Director Robert Tobin, this is a tense and almost severe drama centered on the 1988 bombing and subsequent destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland resulting in 270 deaths including those of 11 of the townspeople. Starring Alexandra Bennett, Jeff Brown, Barbara Button, Lorraine Freund, Amy Kasper, Ray Kasper, Morgan Manasa, Sara Pavlak McGuire and Hayley Rice, this is engrossing, moving and thoughtful. The play unfolds in the form of a Greek tragedy.

Amy Kasper, Barbara Button, Hayley Rice, Lorraine Freund and Morgan Manasa

A mother and father from New Jersey,  struggling in very different ways to come to terms with their 20 year-old son’s death in the crash, as well as the fact that his body was never found,  come to Lockerbie 7 years after the event. They encounter a group of local women afflicted by what happened, some of whom lost family members, too.  Also on the scene is an American diplomat charged with getting rid of the enormous pile of bloody and damaged clothing left from the wreckage. The American mother is mindless with grief, and roams the hills, looking for her son’s remains. Her husband, numb with despair at the twin losses of his wife and son, interacts with the townspeople and the diplomat, ultimately opening up and exploring his own sorrow, shrouded under the burden of his wife’s louder and insistent grief.

Hayley Rice, Barbara Button, Lorraine Freund, Alexandra Bennett, and Morgan Manasa

The Raven’s stagecraft for this performance includes black walls covered with white images of the night sky, with a ghostly figure that might be a shadow, but comes and goes willy-nilly. Clothing and debris are strewn about. The staunch and morally strong local women speak with lovely genuine-sounding Scotch burrs, and the language of resignation, anguish and practical-magic management tips is more than well put. They speak in meter, if not in rhyme. They speak of abjuring hatred, of forgiveness. They effectively transform the minds and actions of the two American men and effect a healing of the anguished couple.

Jeff Brown, Hayley Rice, Barbara Button, Lorraine Freund, Alexandra Bennett, and Morgan Manasa

The story of the clothing, which all of the women ultimately end up salvaging and laundering by hand, on their knees, is a very real one and not a tale at all. Shortly after the horrific event, which left a scar on the landscape whose image, flashed around the world, remains in many people’s minds as an emblem of unparalleled horror, the people of Lockerbie began to unearth bodies, personal effects, and clothing. All of the items, including rolls of film that were later processed to help identify the victims, were given numbers and coupled with descriptions. There was so much debris that fell from the sky! The remarkable citizens of this small town wanted to try and return belongings to families. One can only imagine the grisly job at hand, washing 11,000 garments of the dead.

Hayley Rice, Morgan Manasa, Amy Kasper, Barbara Button and Jeff Brown

As demonstrated in "The Women of Lockerbie", the impetus was to cleanse the items of the horrors that took place within and all about the clothing, to cleanse their hearts and minds of hatred for the perpetrators, to cleanse the entire place of the world’s eyes on their tragedy.This is a meaningful production, well staged, and is highly recommended.

Hayley Rice, Amy Kasper, Lorraine Freund and Alexandra Bennett

For tickets to this and other fine productions by AstonRep Theatre Company, go to the AstonRep Website


Photos courtesy of Emily Schwartz 

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