WASHINGTON, D.C. – “The Remains” is showing at the Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C. through June 17th and documents the unraveling of a marriage of one of the first same-sex marriages in the US.
Thought-provoking, introspective and both painful and funny, the play features a superb cast that beautifully shows how marriage can go awry, whether one is gay or heterosexual. Based on playwright Ken Urban’s own breakup with his partner after being one of the first gay couples to marry in Massachusetts in 2014, ”The Remains” is startling in its openness on how trust, betrayal, and truthfulness can impact a marriage.
According to Urban, “Every relationship is marked by change. Work, life —the things that happen to you, the choices you make — they will shift your values, and sometimes your values and your partner’s do not change in the same way. That is the built-in tragedy about being in love, especially in a long-term relationship. Loving someone inevitably costs you.”
The play opens with Kevin (Maulik Pancholy) and Theo (Glenn Fitzgerald) in their neat, spotless kitchen in Boston’s South End. Married 10 years, they met 17 years ago in graduate school, yet immediately realized that something was amiss. As dinner was prepared for a big announcement, and, with the air thick with tension, we learn that the couple plan to announce to Theo’s parents (and to Kevin’s sister) that they are considering a major change.
That sets up the dark comic action that follows, which includes numerous surprises and startling revelations, not only from the couple but also from the dinner guests.
As Theo, Fitzgerald is dynamic as he portrays a man who is torn by his love for Kevin, but who also has broken the agreed upon rule: the couple can have an open relationship, but each are never supposed to fall in love with someone else.
Pancholy is equally stellar as the other half who commutes to Oregon because a university there is the only place where he can gain tenure, having been turned down by Harvard and other schools, he believed, because he is gay.
Naomi Jacobson plays Trish, Kevin’s mother, an arts reviewer, and is superb as the one who is the most devastated by the couple’s news, having supported their decision to legalize their relationship. However, Trish has her hidden marriage secrets and adds a delightful comic twist.
Greg Mullavey plays the father, Len, a professor, who spouts the philosopher Hegel and who, too, has his own marriage secrets. Len sums up the gist of the play: “We face ethical dilemmas every day. A decision must be made. But most days, it’s not a question of one choice being right and the other being wrong. Either choice is right and wrong, to some degree. That’s the tragedy of life.”
Rounding out the excellent cast is Danielle Skraastad who plays Kevin’s sister Andrea who brings her form of wisdom to the table despite being seen as long struggling and the least accomplished of the characters. Skraastad’s portrayal of a woman who grew up in a home with alcoholic parents who showed little love is sensitive and moving. When she tells Kevin that she took the blow that was intended for him by their father, she spoke volumes about love.
“The Remains” deals with moral questions about relationships and the complexity that arises when personal choices are made. As the philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard voiced: “There are two possible situations – one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or not do it; you will regret both.”