The subject matter of "The Shadow Box" is probably going to make Las Vegas Little Theatre’s production a tough sell, and that's too bad. It's a show worth seeing, with themes that can rejuvenate an audience rather than depress it.
In Michael Cristofer’s pre-AIDS script, we follow the lives of three individuals who are living in separate camps on the grounds of a hospice. Frequently, the real drama lies not in the dying but in the loved ones they are leaving behind.
Brian Scott directs the often first-rate material with the respect it deserves. The characters frequently speak to an unseen voice (the expressive Olga Rios) as they sum up their current moods, and Scott has gotten all of them to sound as if they are really struggling with thoughts, trying to come up with just the exact words.
Alex Pink is particularly noteworthy as a man dying of cancer whose panicked wife (Rachale Marie as Maggie) won't even allow herself to enter his cabin. We see Pink suffering, and we see his moral strength as well. Amy Seddon, with her statuesque presence and equally towering vitality, makes her ex-wife character a life force. You can understand, despite her lists of faults, why any man would want her in his life.
And Barbara Costa, as a cranky, cynical, demanding and witty old woman, is an unforgettable, vulnerable Felicity. You hate to see her suffer, and yet you can see what a toll her demands are taking on her obliging daughter Agnes (Daci Overby).
Ron Lindblom's set is a homey representation of three different cabins -- a living room, a kitchen and porch. Dale Ripingill's lights give each a unique feel. The porch suggests the attractiveness of the outdoors with shadows of leaves hanging carelessly on the door.
Scott, though, makes the understandable mistake of too often hitting too hard at the drama. There are at least two unfortunate bursts of melodrama in the second act that feel redundant. And the actors are in the habit of saying very serious things in very serious ways. I think Scott needed to fight the script a bit and discover more levity, or at least more matter-of-fact dialogue. It's amazing the catastrophic things people can talk about without having nervous breakdowns.
What: "The Shadowbox"
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays (through March 7)
Where: Las Vegas Little Theatre mainstage, 3920 Schiff Drive
Tickets: $19-$22 (362-7996)