“I wish we knew each other better.” How often have you said that to yourself, especially after a tragedy which ended someone’s life? Were you thinking of acquaintances or not-so-close friends? But it’s unlikely that you were referencing your parents or your children. Or were you? A PERMANENT IMAGE delves into the question of barriers – barriers which have kept you distant from those who should have been closest to you, barriers which may have become insurmountable. Idaho-born playwright Samuel D. Hunter explores a frequent theme in his plays – family dynamics, and the tensions inherent in exposing the how and why that have caused distance to become the norm. First produced in Boise, Idaho, in 2011, A PERMANENT IMAGE may be anything but. Never a group to shy away from troubling topics, the Pacific Resident Theatre tackles this complex piece in 2023.
Scott Jackson, Dalia Vosylius, and Terry David – Photo by Alex Moy
The time is Christmas Eve and Christmas day in December 2011, and the place is a small ranch-style house in Viola, Idaho. Bo (Scott Jackson) and Ally (Dalia Vosylius) have come home for the holidays – but not for the festivities of the season. Their mother Carol (Terry Davis) has summoned them back in order to attend the funeral of their father, Martin (Phil Cass). When they arrive, the kids can’t help noticing some pretty strange changes in the old homestead. Carol has painted every room in the house white. And that includes walls, furniture, magazines, pillows, family photos, and anything and everything with a surface. Is this grief speaking? Or recently discovered madness? What is going on here anyway? Those are the questions quickly posed by her son, an international photojournalist, and her daughter, a lesbian entrepreneur running a huge transportation business and juggling her life with her spouse and their toddler son. The family soon turns into the proverbial onion as layers and layers are unpeeled on the way to the core. What happened between mom and her kids? Why do they rarely visit and seem so completely estranged? How did this family turn out two kids who seem to have totally different world views? For that matter, what happened to dad? What’s all the antagonism about? Why all the videos?
Dalia Vosylius, Terry Davis, and Scott Jackson – Photo by Alex Moy
Author Hunter manages to deal with very complicated and heavy themes by intertwining ridiculous and sardonic observations by the principals where least expected. At times, the asides prove to be hilarious as audience members nod their heads in tacit agreement. At times, the tale becomes poignant and almost painful to watch as reality makes its way to the surface. This is a masterful study of a family that might not be very different from yours or mine.
Terry Davis, Scott Jackson, and Dalia Vosylius – Photo by Alex Moy
A PERMANENT IMAGE is skillfully directed by Andy Weyman, who knows his way around black humor as well as tender compassion. The cast does an excellent job of projecting sense into the senseless, with special kudos for Terry Davis for her diddly but profound portrayal of Carol. The production team also deserves note; they probably had lots of fun putting together set designer Lando Piastri’s stage. With lighting by Michael Franco, sound by Keith Stevenson, projection design by James Morris, and fight choreography by Ned Mochel, A PERMANENT IMAGE sings. Don’t miss this show if you want to laugh, cry, and get to know a family that may be a lot like yours.
Scott Jackson, Terry Davis, and Dalia Vosylius – Photo by Alex Moy
A PERMANENT IMAGE runs through January 14, 2024, with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. The Pacific Resident Theatre is located at 703 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90291. Tickets are $35 (senior $25; student rush at door $12). For information and reservations, call 310-822-8392 or go online.