Michael Futcher and Helen Howard are a theatre making tour de force. They have their own company (Matrix Theatre), write plays together, direct them and are both also very talented actors. The Drowning Bride is a play they wrote based on a friend’s true story.
According to the playwrights’ note in The Drowning Bride, Elise Parups told Michael and Helen that “her grandfather had been a suspected Nazi collaborator when the Germans occupied Latvia, and that she’d travelled to America in the 1990s to ask him about his experiences, and to find out why he had divorced her grandmother immediately after the war ended”. Elise had been very close to her grandmother, their bond shattered only when the beautiful old woman was raped.
It’s tragic and meaty material for a play and asks many questions: can family ties withstand appalling deeds? how does it feel to find out a family member collaborated with the Nazis? can we forgive ourselves for not being there when the people we love need us most?
For The Drowning Bride, the writers changed Elise’s name to Ellen and made a conscious decision not to make Ellen the same character as Elise, to use her experiences but not try to depict her accurately on stage.
The action takes place across times and places as Ellen travels with her boyfriend to Pittsburgh to meet her grandfather, Valdis. We see them in the present and have flashbacks to the war, with Ellen’s grandmother, Sarmitte, and the choices that had to be made to try to stay alive.
ELLEN: Why are you such a cruel, bitter old man?
VALDIS: You want me all singing, all dancing? Elena, we all got to keep going how we can. Not always easy. Sarmitte live the way she had to live. I live the way I had to live.
ELLEN: Both of you miserable.
VALDIS: We survive.
ELLEN: And there’s no such thing as love.
But, of course, there is such a thing as love and Ellen discovers that much of what happened was done for love. This is a play about understanding and redemption and the eternal quest for both.
Publisher: Currency Press
Cast: 2M, 2F