Review: Seeking Red

At rehearsal, (from left) Joshua Carlton as Cecil Fetter, Tony Rust as Uncle Ty, Darcy Rust as Grey Rhodes, Janet Rust as Emily Ambrose and Blake Nelson as Detective Jacobs.

Do you ever tell a white lie to a family member, perhaps to save their feelings or because it seems unimportant? Maybe the topic is something you’re not comfortable with because it makes you look bad.

That’s the theme of Seeking Red, a play by Glenn B. Rust that opened June 10 at the Cottage Theatre. This is advertised as the play’s West Coast Premier. Rust wrote the play as part of a senior class at Columbia College Chicago and was one of two selected plays for CCC’s 2019 Playwriting Senior Showcase.

Since Glenn Rust’s whole family is involved with the Cottage Theatre, he basically grew up in this space, beginning with the theater’s summer camps. Both of his parents teach drama, and his grandparents, Jack and Pauline Thorsteson, have been active in CT since its beginning. Both his parents and his sister are cast members in Seeking Red, bringing this, as Susan Goes commented in her remarks before the play, “family involvement to a whole new level.”

The story was emotionally heavy, with characters, often tearful, working through long soliloquies. The storyline involved lots of twists and turns as Grey (Darcy Glenn) sought the truth about her mother’s death.

The scenes with Grey and Cecil (Joshua Carlton) were my favorites in the show. Cecil is a man rescued from prison by the Innocence Project after 15 years of unjust imprisonment. He and Grey had great chemistry and their scenes were relaxed and comfortable contrasting with some of the other intense relationships.

Janet Rust as Emily Ambrose, Grey’s boss at her new newspaper job, managed to bring a little humor into the story as someone who has seen it all in her job.

Tony Rust had one of the most difficult jobs in the show. He played Uncle Ty, the gay uncle who raised Grey, and David Ragan, the serial killer du jour, the Othello Killer. The contrast between the two characters was huge, a flighty gay man who was often in tears, and a horrid grim man in prison. Some of his speeches as Ragan were a bit muddled with strange imagery, but I decided that was because he was insane and was fine with it. I felt like the actor preferred the Uncle Ty character (who wouldn’t?).

Blake Nelson played Det. Jacobs, a fidgety man with social anxiety. His character was obviously in the right spot working with cold cases that had been in the files for years. Blake played his character as a kind man doing his best, willing to be interviewed by anybody.

The play is staged with one simple set and furniture is moved on and off stage. That was done very smoothly with cast members handling most of the movement.

The play ended with all the characters coming on stage with umbrellas. They folded them closed while they opened what was apparently crypts, then re-opened the umbrellas and left the stage. A reference to Seattle? Not sure about what that meant.

When you see the show, remember to check the concession stand for the special play-themed cookies by Judy Smith. Amazingly delicious!

This play is a serious drama dealing with difficult and dark subject matter. It may not be suitable for some children.

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