After a truly groundbreaking and eclectic lineup, the Salem Theatre Company end their tenth season triumphantly with A Delicate Balance. The play, penned by Edward Albee in 1966, ushered in his first of three Pulitzer Prizes in ’67, and stands strong as a true American Classic. Set in October of 1962, A Delicate Balance tells the story Agnes and Tobias (played by Sharon Mason and Chuck Schwager respectively), an aging upper-middle class couple and the anxiety they face not only from the return of their angst-ridden 36 year old daughter Julia (Sarah Carlin) and her marriage troubles, but also the persistent alcoholic tendencies of Agnes’ quirky younger sister Claire (Linda Goetz). When lifelong family friends Harry and Edna (Jeffrey Phillips and Lida McGirr respectively) arrive unexpectedly after being shaken mentally by an unnamed terror, the family’s already unstable tendencies begin to spiral completely out of control.
The beauty of A Delicate Balance comes in its minimalist structure; the three-act one-scene play has a very intimate and, at points, claustrophobic air about it that engages the audience and, by the end, grips you to the point where the family’s drama is suddenly yours. The cozy intimacy provided by the Salem Theatre Company serves as, quite honestly, the perfect setting for this play, and adds an intense audience/actor connection that only intensifies the familial environment conveyed on-stage. A setting like the Salem Theatre Company is certainly what Albee had in mind whilst writing A Delicate Balance.
Because of the minimalistic style featured in A Delicate Balance, all the emotion and tension between characters is purely dialogue-based, which can be challenging for such a small cast. The Salem Theatre Company’s cast for this play was not only up for this task, but did a brilliant job bringing illustrious life to Albee’s characters. The interactions between Sharon Mason and Sarah Carlin were truly a memorable highlight, and Linda Goetz’s hilarious and witty performance kept the audience laughing and engaged the entire evening. Phillips and McGirr’s portrayal of the mood-swinging Harry and Edna added a realistic and tense air to the play as a whole and, despite the lack of stage-time, served as two of the most significant performances of the night. Though this was his first time with the company, Chuck Schwager did an absolutely stunning job as Tobias, and is a perfect fit with this stunning cast; portraying Tobias as the somewhat unwilling thread holding the family together while, at the same time, being the center of attention and animosity from his family and friends.
The Salem Theatre Company certainly ended their tenth season on a high note. Under the careful and fluid direction of John Fogle, this production of A Delicate Balance not only highlights the acting-prowess of the six cast-members, but fits beautifully in this comfortable and intimate theater. The last production of the Salem Theatre Company’s tenth season is certainly not one to be missed.
A Delicate Balance runs from May 9th to June 1st at the Salem Theatre Company on 90 Lafayette Street in Salem, Massachusetts. For more information on show times and ticket prices, please visit www.salemtheatre.com
Chris Ricci has had articles published on Cracked.com as well as The Beverly Citizen.
*Feature Image: The Cast. Photo Courtesy of www.salemtheatre.com