Jerrod Bondy (left) as Ross Gardiner and Michael Grossman as Mr. Green

Across the great divide, into a life laid bare

Cranbrook Community Theatre’s “Visiting Mr. Green” opens tonight, Friday, Nov. 29, at the Studio Stage Door in Cranbrook

We all know these places, and will likely inhabit them ourselves someday. Crowded, cluttered apartments, full of the familiar, if useless detritus of our lives. The inhabitants of these places shuffle through the rooms, lost in their habits, set in their ways.

This is the room we come to know very well, in “Visiting Mr. Green,” Cranbrook Community Theatre’s latest production, which opens tonight, Friday, Nov. 29, at the Studio Stage Door.

Mr. Green (Michael Grossman) inhabits a world familiar to most of us — the world of the aged and chronically alone, whose boundaries have shrunk to the confines of four apartment walls. In Mr. Green’s case, the walls of his uncared-for New York apartment are reinforced with rage.

Mr. Green, 86,  has been sitting Shiva — the Jewish mourning period — for much, much longer than the requisite seven days. It seems Mr. Green will be sitting Shiva for the rest of his life. He has fallen into the fog of one who has given up. He seems on the point of starvation. In perpetual mourning for his late wife, Mr. Green seems ready to die.

But then youthful Ross Gardiner (Jerrod Bondy) forces his way into Mr. Green’s Fortress of Solitude. Ross — a young urban professional, a Harvard graduate — forces his way in reluctantly, for he has been compelled to visit Mr. Green by a court of law.

And as the play unfolds, a series of vignettes establishes the relationship between the two characters, and the immense divide between the young and the old — the reluctance, incomprehension and impatience of youth, and the rage, the ongoing state of denial and the vast, vast loneliness of the aged.

We are all of us familiar with this relationship — some of us from both sides. It is fascinating to see it unfold and develop.

Young Ross persists — not only because of his legal requirement but because of a growing compassion and what appears to be a vast loneliness of his own. And Mr. Green finds a sudden purchase for friendship when he discovers Ross, as well, is Jewish.

So on we go through the first act, watching a tale of a divide crossed, how relationships are established, how we can find common ground with each other, how our hearts can soften.

That is, until Ross drops a bombshell of information into the conversation, and with a jolt the whole play goes sideways, leading us into territory we weren’t expecting at all. The volume and the temperature begin to rise. And just as we’re getting used to it, Mr. Green drops a bombshell of his own — or rather, Ross uncovers it, the secret around which the play revolves. And then we’re just along for the ride, watching lives laid bare.

Both Grossman and Bondy display great acting skill in the portrayal of rage, grief and shock — the undercurrent of emotions that are buried below the surface, but not so far, even in Mr. Green’s case, that they can’t be violently dug up.

And while there are only two actors on the stage, the best two-character plays bring other characters on stage, unseen and unheard, but still vital and present. So it is in “Visiting Mr. Green.”

“Visiting Mr. Green,” by Jeff Baron, features Cranbrook actors Michael Grossman and Jerrod Bondy. It is directed by Tanya Laing Gahr and produced by Sally Masters. Associate Director is Amanda Ball, and Technical Director is Rusty Gahr.

It runs 10 nights at the Studio/Stage Door, 11 – 11th Ave. S., Cranbrook, November 29 and 30, December 4-7 and December 11-14. Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets available at Lotus Books.

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