Photos by Cary Hazelgrove
• by Rebecca Nimerfroh •
Have you ever day-dreamed about hunting down a long-lost ex, storming through their front door, and demanding once and for all an explanation for all their wrongs? Sure, it’s been years and years, and you both have moved on long ago, but undeniably, there is still, and most likely always will be, a little flicker of a fire in your heart for them, and it would warm you to see them as much as it would hurt. Finding yourself there, in front of them, no doubt you would scream, you would cry, you would embrace, and maybe, just maybe, you would finally understand what went wrong.
This is the very set up for the striking Annapurna, a play written by Sharr White, presented at the gorgeously new White Heron Theatre Company located just behind the Whaling Museum in downtown Nantucket, running until September 11. A two-person production, starring White Heron Theatre regular Brandy Zarle as Emma and Broadway veteran Joey Collins as Ulysses, the audience finds themselves a front row seat as these two estranged lovers hash it out from within Ulysses’ dirty trailer.
Directed by Lynne Bolton, this production opens to Emma finding Ulysses dressed only in a dirty apron, cooking meat on his stove. Emma discovers that this man she loved and left years ago has let not just a few things slide – like clothes for example, which he chooses not to wear unless he has money to launder them, or getting a new phone, which he claims his dog ate long ago. But there are greater things too, like his health, that he has lost as well leaving him equipped with an oxygen tube through his nose and hooked up to a bag on his back. When Emma finally addresses the fact that he is sick with terminal cancer from years and years of smoking, Ulysses says humorously, “Oh, and there’s that.”
As the layers of these characters unravel, the audience sees that both these people are not without their fare share of flaws, with Ulysses’ history of alcoholism (the reason they split apart) but also Emma’s history of attracting a poor mate has repeated itself as indicated by multiple bruises on her arm. But then it is revealed as well that their love affair was not a casual one, and that they have a son, Sammy, whom Emma took with her when she left Ulysses years ago on one fateful night. Tension rises as Ulysses confesses that he doesn’t remember, due to an alcoholic black out, what caused her to leave and never return, and Emma refuses to accept this. The dialog between them reveals the dark minutes of their last moments years ago, and there is genuine sadness to be felt for these two who left so much unsaid.
The real magic here is in the dialog, and how easy it pours from actors Zarle and Collins. You forget you are watching a play and feel like you are a fly on the wall in this unfortunate, yet thrilling scene where you can’t help but think of how time does not heal all wounds, and that sometimes things shouldn’t be left unsaid. The poet Rumi once urged us to be patient with our questions because we will one day find ourselves living in the answers, but maybe that is not always true?
Real love is felt when Ulysses, a once-famous writer who has long ago abandoned his career, reveals that he has been writing a poem about his long lost Emma since the day she left. He calls it “Annapurna” after the great Himalayan Peak of the same name, that a man named Maurice Herzog first summited and famously said “there are other Annapurnas in the lives of men.” And it is all these figurative mountains, both beautiful and challenging, that make up the stories of our lives.