After a pandemic-mandated two-year hiatus, the stage lights came up at the Oakes Center in Summit last weekend where the Equity company at Vivid Stage (formerly known as Dreamcatcher Rep) performed a world premiere of a play by Artistic Director Laura Ekstrand.
Life’s Work examines the intimate relationships of two couples who discover what happens when their previously made agreements around work and money shift and evolve. Unfolding over the course of a week, the plot of Life’s Work addresses a critical issue faced by two couples: “Is it possible for a partnership to survive when the ground rules change?”
When Chip (Scott McGowan) suddenly decides to quit working as an attorney—something he’s been doing for two decades—he blindsides his wife Lynn (Nicole Callender), who is just returning to her career as an interior designer after years as a primary caregiver for their now-college-aged daughter. At the same time, Shelly (Emaline Williams), a young, aspiring photographer who supports herself as a barista, navigates her relationship with her more practical partner, Eduardo (Mitchell Leigh Gordon), a restaurant manager.
In 90 minutes, this production reminds me just how much I missed live theater! Zoom productions may have worked as a stop gap measure, but there is nothing like experiencing a quartet of talented actors bringing life to a playwright’s script.
Writing for actors she has worked closely with in the past, Ekstrand shows her wry wit in dialogue that resonates with the audience, as evidenced in a spirited talkback following the performance. And, when it’s delivered naturally and convincingly by the actors, her dialogue hits home with both middle-aged and younger audience members.
Jack Golden’s set design, furnished with props efficiently and quietly rolled on and off during the myriad of scene changes (16!), transport us to seven residential and business venues. Zach Pizza’s lighting and Jeff Knapp’s sound designs enhance the production without being intrusive.
After working from home for the past two years and just now getting back to the workplace, many couples may be questioning the role of work/employment in intimate relationships. Life’s Work is a cogent, thoughtful, often funny examination of the value of work and the respect one derives from it—at home and in the office. You won’t want to miss this play!
Life’s Work will be performed at the Oakes Center, 120 Morris Avenue, Summit, through May 1. For information and tickets, go to www.vividstage.org online.