STAGE REVIEW TNT tackles heartfelt subject in 'To Gillian'

Grief and its consequences are explored throughout the drama.
NILES -- Grief.
We consider it a sinister enemy that silently lurks in the background.
The slightest thing, a sight, a sound, a smell -- even a breeze -- can quicken the memory of loss, and grief pushes itself to the fore, fully engaging our senses, leaving us feeling weak, vulnerable and alone.
The power of grief was presented in a curious form of quiet fury at Friday night's opening performance of "To Gillian, on Her 37th Birthday" at Trumbull New Theatre. The drama explores the shock of sudden loss, its ensuing grief and the bitter struggle of recovery as the family of Gillian Lewis is shattered by her sudden death in a boating accident off Nantucket Island on her birthday.
Characters: Two years have passed since that dreadful day, but the pain felt by her husband, David, is still as fresh as if it had happened but a day or two before. The drama is set on the island at a family reunion as David's friends and loved ones gather in their continuing efforts to help him recover.
Their attempts are poignant and thought-provoking as they struggle to reach him before his overwhelming grief destroys him. It is David's relationship with his daughter, Rachel, that the story ultimately centers around as the two seek, and many times fail, to find their footing in a world that has gone completely awry.
Charles D. Thomas gave a wry, understated performance as the suffering David, imbuing his character with a deep sense of loss that must be regained at all costs.
As his daughter, Rachel, Becky Grove performed well as she tried to be there for her father and still deal with her own grief.
Giving a stellar performance as Gillian's sister, Esther, was A. Raenae Lockhart. Her mix of emotions as she toiled with a large measure of exasperation to help David was superb.
A fine characterization also was given by Thomas Watson as Esther's husband and David's best friend, Paul.
Terri Kotsatos gave a fine rendition of Kevin, who has been brought along by Esther and Paul as a possible love interest for David. Her curious name is finally explained near the end of the play.
Completing the cast as a brooding teen-age neighbor, Cindy, was Meredith Keyes, who portrayed a full measure of teen angst with an unrequited crush on David.
Kate Huff serves as director of this fine ensemble, and special accolades must go to her also for the beautiful set design.

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