The usage of Buddy Holly’s music by playwright Bekah Brunstetter in Welthy Holliday Productions beautifully realized version of “Be A Good Little Widow” is ingenious. The music is lively, happy, yet the listener knows Holly was doomed to die in a plane crash. So too is Craig (Matt Bittner), who is married to Melody (Aamira Welthy); Melody is destined to become a widow, which will link her, for better or worse, to Craig’s widowed mother, Hope (Chris Holliday).
These two women are wildly different people, separated by class, age and mores. Hope is an uptight, rigid Connecticut type, who sticks to “rules” of widowhood: mourning is to be done in private, with no tears or tantrums. Mourning should not be messy. Melody, at 26, was still trying to find herself at the time of her husband’s death, and was not prepared for the emotional rollercoaster it would take her on. In some respects still a child, she reacts viscerally, while Hope suggests she get a grip. Instead, Melody drives to the crash scene, gets drunk, and dances wildly with Craig’s colleague, Brad (the superb Robbie Tann), who in many respects is a reflection of herself.
I often say, out loud, to anyone who will listen, that New York City boasts the most gifted actors, but often they outshine the play that they are in. Not here. Welthy and Holliday are incredible, and give beautifully believable, finely calibrated performances. They will both break your heart. The men are equally fine, with Bittner’s Craig a warm, lovely presence and a constant in Melody’s life; Tann’s loose-limbed, off-kilter Brad is just outstanding. Elena Araoz’s direction was spot-on.
But without Brunstetter’s writing, it wouldn’t much matter. She understands that grief and indeed relationships are messy yet necessary parts of the way we live. She also knows that sooner or later, we have to confront what we’d rather forget. I have a couple of quibbles: some of the music later in the play was unnecessary and the Hope/Melody relationship resolves a little too tidily. But Brunstetter gets all the details right: the scene where Craig proposes is both awkward and sweet. The Parmesan-crusted sleeved sweatshirt. The Skittles. Don’t know what I mean? Then you must get down to East Village and see this production, these gifted actors, this terrific play.