Grief, Sadness, and Friendship in Four Movements
by Dana Hammer
Grief is the worst. We’ve all experienced it, and it feels awful. But more than that, it changes people. Much like alcohol, grief can radically alter the way we perceive and react to things. When grieving, we become more volatile, less predictable, and generally less pleasant to be around. When we lose someone close to us, the disorientation can be almost too much to bear. Nothing is normal. Your sweet aunts get in a fist fight over who inherits grandma’s bed. Your brother develops a hoarding habit. (We can’t throw away Grandpa’s boots! His feet were in those!) Your children start doing disturbing things like building guillotines and beheading dandelions.
Whatever craziness you and your loved ones get up to while they suffer, it’s all because of the radical change that has taken place in their emotional landscape. What we need most when we’re grieving is a feeling of normalcy and stability. We need to make the world stop shaking, even if it’s only for a little while. One of the best ways to do that, is to reconnect with people from our past — people who knew us back in the day, people who remember the way things were when they were NORMAL. This is part of the reason we have funerals. So we can gather with our friends and loved ones, to provide strength and stability for each other in our time of loss.
But what if the friends you gather don’t understand what you’re going through? That is the heart of the play, “Sustained Release,” written by Matthew Mullin.
According to director Lizzy McCabe, “Sustained Release” follows Hailey, Alex and Robert, three friends desperately trying to navigate the death of Robert's Father and the toll it takes on them. Various important moments of their lives from ages 15-21 are explored through the window of Hailey's memories. When emotions run over and a once easy dynamic becomes contentious, the three must fight to understand and be understood by one another before it is too late to reconcile their fractured friendships.”
Basically, if you’ve ever experienced grief, and the social drama that often comes with it, this play is for you.
The play does not follow a traditional act/scene structure. According to Ms. McCabe, “This play is a fluid piece that operates less through scenes and more through 4 individual Movements.”
This makes sense when you consider that this piece is about loss and grief — a time when everything is thrown into chaos and life loses its former structure. When the patterns of normal life dissipate, we have to rely on other forms of normalcy — the four seasons, the rise and fall of the sun, the tides — the things that remain when all else is changing. Neatly divided plays with act and scene headings won’t save you, or give you the comfort you require.
When asked what drew her to this play, the director said, “Sustained Release has its own independent magnetism that really drew me in. Its emotionality is so immense and the care that Matthew (the playwright) has taken to develop each of the characters and their own individual journeys is remarkable. The ending blew me away the very first time I read it. It’s an amazing script. This is not a lighthearted piece for escapists and first dates. This is a deep, moving medication on love, loss, and friendship. It is recommended for people over the age of thirteen, due to language and adult themes. But other than that, if you are a person who has experienced loss, and feel that the experience is worthy of emotional exploration, this play is for you.”
According to McCabe, “Everyone should see this play…the universality of the characters and their struggles make this a play relatable for everyone. The structure of the piece is complex, elevated and delicate, making it a must see for theatre lovers…the ideas explored within are accessible and relatable for non-theatre goers as well.”
When my mom died last year, it meant a lot to me to have the support and friendship of people from my past. Living in a different state, my immediate social circle is comprised entirely of people who didn’t know my mom — going back to my home state and seeing old friends and family members was comforting in a deep, primal way. They knew her. They knew me. They understood. And for a moment, in their company, the world stopped shaking.
In “Sustained Release,” we meet characters who are suffering and sad. Will they be able to comfort each other, give each other the stability that they need in this awful time? Come see for yourself, at the world premiere of “Sustained Release”, at The Larking House Garage.
Dana Hammer is a writer of plays, novels, short stories, and screenplays. She lives in Anaheim, where she makes bad decisions, like reading her old high school diaries.
The Larking House
1736 N. Meadowlark Lane, Anaheim, CA, 92806
December 9 - December 18, 2023