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Dig

A group of people in a room with plants

Description automatically generated

Jeffrey Bean, Andrea Syglowski, Triney Sandoval (Photo: Justin Swader)

 

Dig

 

Reviewed by Julia Polinsky

 

Is Theresa Rebeckís new play, Dig, a terrific character study of troubled people, asking if anyone is beyond saving? A heart-rending meditation on truth and honesty? Is it ďÖtragical-comical-historical-pastoral?Ē Yes, and yes, and yes, and quite, quite wonderful.

Under Rebeckís own direction, knockout performances from a terrific cast bring her tight, beautifully written book to vibrant life. From the moment the lights come up on the splendid set, and Roger (Jeffrey Bean) and Lou (Triney Sandoval) draw your eye and attention, the real-ness of these performances hits hard. And thatís before the first word from Andrea Syglowski (Megan), who, hiding in plain sight in her drab depressiveís clothing, has perfected the art of playing invisible when she herself has such stage presence.

Dig takes place in a small plant and garden shop named Dig, in a dying neighborhood in an unnamed town. The shop owner, Roger, himself a semi-recluse who is content with his plants and their photosynthesis, starts the play by confronting his old friend Lou and his friendís dying plant -- which Roger had given him in the first place.

Roger says heíll rehabilitate that plant, and just like that, rehab enters the conversation. Megan, Louís daughter and the elephant in the room, has just left Ė rehab? Prison? Both? She is emphatically in need of a little restructuring herself. Ok, a lot. Tons. She knows it; she spouts the gospel of AA as telling the truth of her sad story. She tried to kill herself; her father reluctantly took her in, after release, because she had nowhere else to go and someone had to vouch for her.

In the teeth of Rogerís objections and disapproval, Megan immediately embraces the idea of repotting a plant to help it grow, give it some air and food, and the first inkling of real growth and change enters the story.

A person and person standing in a flower shop

Description automatically generatedJeffrey Bean, Mary Bacon (Photo:James Leynse)

Thereís more to it than that, of course, and when a customer, Molly (Mary Bacon), comes in and recognizes Megan, that story comes out: Meganís young son died of his motherís neglect, locked in a hot car with the windows rolled up. Mollyís revulsion is a total-body experience, one that ignites screaming anger from the volatile Megan.

Can there be forgiveness for that? For killing your kid? Can a mother who let that happen be rehabilitated? Will any amount of positive attention bring her back to the life her dead son can never have? †

Dig, the plant shop full of growing things, may answer that question. The owner, Roger, collects people who need help, as much as plants that require pruning, feeding, watering. The stoner dude who drives his truck, Everett, (a killer performance from Greg Keller) somehow escapes Rogerís hidden kindness and crusty benevolence. Everettís clueless self-centered behavior prompts Roger to fire him, and then things get complicated; he refuses to learn and improve. Lou, the best friend at his witsí end, Louís desperate daughter, and even the judgmental customer, Molly, all somehow get something from watching Roger help things grow.

Itís really Meganís show, but the other characters grow, too. Mostly. Thatís a teaser but not a spoiler, so hereís another: at intermission, after enjoying the first act leading you more or less where you think itís going, you may find yourself, as I did, crossing your fingers, hoping the second act is unpredictable.

Unpredictable indeed. Meganís ex-husband, Adam (David Mason) unexpectedly arrives and creates an uproar. Didnít see that coming, and how devastating it is. Act II, in its pity and terror, resolves many questions, and answers yes, yes, and yes: some people can be rehabbed, but not without hard work. Lives can be renovated, with a lot of thought and care. To keep the plant metaphor going, a little pruning, a little water, some nurturing, some care, and some honesty go a long, long way.

A room with plants in it

Description automatically generatedJeffrey Bean (Photo: Justin Swader)

The set, by Christopher Swader and Justin Swader, may be the best set ever at 59E59, where Primary Stages, the producing company for Dig, is now resident. The monotonous green and brown of the store blossoms into color as the charactersí lives hint at improving (watching the stage manager reset for the second act is delightful). Note-perfect costumes come from Fabian Fidel Aguilar and super-effective lighting design from Mary Ellen Stebbins.

Early in Dig, Roger says, ďItís only the most important chemical reaction on the face of the earth.Ē Heís talking about photosynthesis, but he might as well be talking about the honest, truthful, painful, and warm and wonderful the relationships among people. A beautiful play, beautifully done, Dig will reward your time and attention.

Dig

59E59, Theater A

59 E. 59th St., New York, NY

Through October 22

Tickets $65-125

https://www.59e59.org/shows/show-detail/dig/#schedule-and-tickets

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