How does one cope with the loss of a loved one and deal with the complex family problems that occur afterward? “To Gillian on her 37 Birthday,” presented by the Seaside Theatre Company, deals primarily with this complex problem.
Michael Brady’s critically acclaimed Off-Broadway play, later adapted for the big screen, revolves around a family gathering in a beach house off the coast of New England. The play develops around the central character David (Bryan Kimmel) who has shut himself off from his family and fallen in to a state of depression since the accidental death of his wife Gillian (Jean Hall). The young and enthusiastic Rachel (Jennifer Ernest) takes the enduring role of David’s daughter who is spending time with her father and attempting to deal with her mother’s death along with the problems that encounter a teenage girl. Coincidentally, the weekend in which the play is set is also the weekend of Gillian’s birthday and death. David continues to hang on to the memory of his wife and is visited by her on his late night walks and talks with her. Rachel and her Aunt Ester (Leslie Story) urge David to accept the death of Gillian and to move on with his life, but to no avail. During this weekend Ester and her husband Paul (Martin Bell) bring along a former student of David’s, Kevin (Debbie Leppert) to attempt to help him out of his depressive state, unaware of the importance of the anniversary of Gillian’s death.
Both Kimmel and Story perform wonderfully and are the key performers in the play. Ester, who is a therapist, tries to help David, but this turns into an emotional and dramatic confrontation between the two. Also, the young Jennifer Ernest gives a convincing performance of a teenager trying to cope with the loss of her mother and friend.
“To Gillian on her 37 Birthday” captures the emotional tribulations of a family coping with the death of a family member. The small unknown theatre should not deter anyone from making the drive to Carpinteria to see this great production.
“To Gillian on her 37 Birthday” runs through May 20. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Theatre Molly Barbey, 5315 Foothill Rd., Carpinteria. $7 – $10, general. For tickets and information, call 684-6380.