The season for grief may be upon us - in that, several playwrights around town have embraced the theme of recent. Depending on your approach to life some may consider this coincidence and some a zeitgeist. I suspect that the playwright Bekah Brunstetter would contemplate both and more. Her new play "Be A Good Little Widow", which opens May 2nd, 2011 provides many questions on the subject of grief, to the point that "..the rules for grief" are spelled out by a discriminating, blue blood mother from Connecticut to her daughter-in-law, whose husband has suffered a fate and now they must mourn, reluctantly together. Decisions must be made, surely a mother, aptly named "Hope", knows best, she is the chapter leader of "The Widows League" after all, having already lost her own husband, her sons father to cancer. Shes made grieving her specialty subject - and shes full of practical advice. Yes, theres comedy here and Miss Brunstetter incorporates memorable self-deprecating zingers into her four handed vehicle. Upon Hopes first visit to the newly weds, her meticulous scrutiny receives a sweet retort by Melody, the daughter-in-law, "Im the dishwasher, Im just usually broken". Yet, Melody, performed delightfully as a slightly wacky, girl next door by Wrenn Schmidt, is eager to please her mother-in-law for she loves her husband very much - she thinks. For really this is young love. Or at least in todays society to be married at 25, before youve had a chance to figure out what it is you want for yourself... oh the mind boggles. Whats satisfying is Craig, the husband, knows for sure how he feels towards Melody - he loves her. And how could you not. Shes funny, playful, silly, as is he. A flashback proposal of marriage is cause for hilarity, even though the memory is book ended with longing, yet it shows Craigs certainty and Melodys reluctant willingness. At another time during their marriage Craig wants to dance and make out, Melody responds "sometimes you make your lips so tight, its like kissing a butthole". And she admits to the fourth character in the play, Brad, whose boss is Craig, that she doesnt mind when he leaves on his business trips. But this is not about Melody wishing she had made other choices in her life. Maybe she married too soon. She is bored and lonely in Connecticut, while waiting for Craig to return from his many business trips. Is she ambitious? No, but that could change - she went to college. Through contemplation, she knows she loves Craig, and she grows as she fights the mother on who to invite to the service, where they should hold the post funeral lunch, and the eulogy which she insists she must write, despite Hopes immediate indignation. And in this tale of grief, it is the eulogy that helps Melody form a connection to her husband, as she searches to understand what it is that she knew about him. She philosophizes "what do we know about anyone?" before digging deep to find the man she loved. This softens Hopes heart, and in a touching scene where she continues to advise Melody, she gives her strength and purpose and of course hope, helping her to imagine falling in love again, something Hope never allowed for herself. For Off -Off Broadway, "Ars Nova" leads the pack not only for its past accomplishments but for the consistent, high level of artistry and fully formed productions that take place at its splendid home on West 54th street - "Be A Good Little Widow", is no exception. Even before the players take the stage, you know youre in good hands, with well crafted set design, lighting and sound. Each performer brought to life warm, easy to like characters, with Wrenn Schmidt most notably capturing our hearts as the driving force of a play, that entertains with humor and thoughtful contemplation in the face of great pain.
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