“Nine Night” opens Round House Theatre’s 2022-23 season. Funny exchanges during a family visit among cousins, turn into grieving when Gloria, the family matriarch, dies in the home after a prolonged illness. Her death shakes up her daughter Lorraine (Lilian Oben) who had been Gloria’s caregiver.
The play illustrates one family’s normal routine turns upside amidst the Caribbean mourning period traditionally held after the death of a loved one. for Gloria’s passing. Nine evenings serve as the period when family and friends honor the life of the recently deceased. For this family, the peeling back of layers indicate that their mourning encompasses much more than just the death of the matriarch.
Natasha Gordon, the playwright and an actress of Jamaican descent, makes her debut with the play.
Her characters go emotionally deep with surprising sibling revelations about Gloria’s children. Lorraine’s sorrow over the death of her mother is further shaken when her brother Robert (Avery Glymph) tries to convince his sister to sell the family home. He’s secretly been exploring a sale as Gloria’s health deteriorated.
Maggie and Vince, portrayed by Kim Bey and Doug Brown, respectively, are Gloria’s married cousins. Maggie, a bit high-strung, gives the play some comic relief. Vince just wants to “chill” while being a constant companion to Maggie. Katie deBuys portrays Sophie, Robert’s wife, and she has a big secret. Anita played by Kaitlyn Boyer is Lorraine’s daughter who is upbeat and carefree. Trudy, an older sister to Lorraine and Robert, lives outside the country. She has come to be with family during “Nine Night.” Many true feelings and secrets come to the surface when Trudy arrives.
For audience member Leslie Robinson, Gordon touched all of the sensitive places that can be felt during a “Nine Night” mourning period. Robinson said at age 74, she is still learning family secrets.
“My family is from the Caribbean. I grew up with aunties. My grandmother came from Barbados and my grandfather is from Guyana. That was my family – the death, the emotion, fighting, arguing, all the family secrets, everything was coming out,” said Robinson who lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Timothy Douglas, the director of the production, expressed his excitement in finally seeing the play open after it underwent a postponement in 2020 because of the pandemic.
A superb cast has been assembled. Every emotion from each cast member could be felt by the audience. Even the spirit of the dearly departed Gloria could be seen and felt inside the theater.
Scenic designer Tim Mackabee has created a home setting on stage that is extremely realistic. It’s a house that looks “lived in” which gives it the feeling of people regularly coming in and out to hang out with family.
“Nine Night is one of two plays he is directing in the Greater Washington Area. He’s also the director of “The Color Purple” at Signature Theatre in Shirlington, Va.
Plays about family members who are forced to deal with long-standing issues are usually attention-holders. “Nine Night” will keep your attention with a few bonuses.
“Nine Night” is at Round House Theatre through October 9. For ticket information visit https://www.roundhousetheatre.org
Brenda C. Siler, Twitter and Instagram: @bcscomm