Theater Assessment: Gamm Theatre brings heartbreak and laughs in ‘Ironbound’ | Arts & Residing


WARWICK, R.I. — A static set is the backdrop for 4 dynamic actors within the Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre’s gripping manufacturing of “Ironbound.”

Written by Pulitzer Prize winner Martyna Majok, the play is a clear-eyed have a look at the immigrant expertise, the fissures within the American Dream, and the way these fissures have an effect on human relationships.

There’s heartbreak on this story, but in addition humor. It’s a have a look at actual life, and in actual life, people do and say some humorous issues.

For Majok, it’s additionally private. The Polish-born playwright drew on her mom’s experiences in America, working as a home cleaner.

Though the play spans 22 years, the setting by no means modifications. It’s a dreary bus cease in an industrial part of New Jersey, represented on the Gamm by a metallic bench, an imposing “concrete” wall, and strategic lighting that delineates day from night time.

That stark setting focuses our consideration on 4 complicated, properly drawn – and really properly performed — characters.

Nothing modifications on the bus cease besides time, which skips forwards and backwards, previous to current, as these characters meet throughout repeated encounters.

We are available in on Darja, a Polish immigrant surviving on what she earns as a home cleaner and the economies that come from sharing an condominium with Tommy. Theirs is a transactional relationship, however not with out emotions; it has lasted for seven years.

Now Darja wants cash and when Tommy resists, she calls him out on his infidelities and threatens to go away. He begs her to know, however for Darja, the transaction has modified.

“I can’t belief understanding,” Darja says. “I can belief $3,000.”

From there, the play strikes again in time to Darja’s first relationship, a passionate one with Maks, a fellow immigrant who has goals of constructing a profession as a musician. Point out is also fabricated from a wedding to a boss on the manufacturing facility the place she labored earlier than it shut down, however this character by no means comes on stage.

Then there’s a late-night encounter with Vic, a younger Black man. Not like the opposite relationships, this one is transient and challenges assumptions in a mind-opening approach.

Donnla Hughes is a tour de power as Darja, world-weary and hardened however passionate. She’s on stage all through the roughly 95-minute, no-intermission manufacturing and loses neither her depth nor our consideration. She is so convincing, we might cry for her.  

Steve Kidd brings spot-on interpretation to his portrayal of Tommy, a person who’s flawed and needy however with some redeeming qualities. Tommy is a bundle of points, and Kidd expresses all of them.   

Gunnar Manchester is the heartbreaker as Maks, the musician with whom Darja has her happiest moments. Word should be made about Manchester’s and Hughes’ Polish accents as a result of they’re achieved so persistently and properly.

Lastly, Rodney Witherspoon handles the humor and the surprising facets of Vic’s encounter with Darja in a really pure and fascinating approach.

It’s uncanny how the writing on this play and the work of those 4 actors allow us to see issues from every character’s viewpoint. We’re of their sneakers, because the saying goes, which is a credit score to the understanding Rachel Walshe brings to her considerate and caring path.

On the finish, we are able to speak about how issues may work out for Darja, what to anticipate or what to hope for. Even the title of the play is up for dialogue. Is it a literal reference to the economic setting, or a metaphor for another constraint?

Little is all spelled out, however rather a lot is obtainable up for understanding. The Gamm’s “Ironbound” is transferring, memorable, significant theater.

Performances of “Ironbound’ proceed by April 10 at The Gamm Theatre, 1245 Jefferson Blvd. Tickets are $49-$69 and accessible by calling (401) 723-4266 or on-line at

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