While many of the city’s theaters remain shuttered because of the pandemic, Richmond Triangle Players is embracing the zeitgeist in a novel way: by incorporating masks and vaccines into its next production.
In the theater company’s upcoming staging of Peter Quilter’s play “4000 Days,” the pandemic is portrayed onstage with performers wearing masks and the insinuation that Michael, played by Carlen Kernish, one of the main characters, fell into a coma after receiving a vaccine. Though the play premiered in London in 2016, Quilter’s notes state that the show should take place in the present day, hence the masks.
After Michael wakes from his coma, his partner and mother find that Michael has no memory of the past 11 years, including the entirety of his decade-long romantic relationship. The two struggle to determine what’s best for the person they care about.
“[Michael’s] mother doesn’t like his partner, so she’s kind of pleased about that,” says Jacqueline Jones, who plays Michael’s acerbic mother Carol in the show. “She’s an overbearing but jovial person. She has a great sense of humor and she’s great at backhanded compliments.”
Todd Patterson, who plays Michael’s partner Paul, says his character questions what to do when the man he loves doesn’t remember him.
“Paul is faced with that dilemma, that crossroads: Do I love him enough to let him go, or am I going to try to force this relationship into his memory?” Patterson says. “At the end of the day, [the show is] about connections and about people trying to hold onto the ones that they love.”
Though Michael doesn’t remember Paul, he tries to jump-start his memory through painting and reading old newspapers.
“Michael is really open to the idea that this person is in love with him,” Jones says. “He’s hesitant because he doesn’t remember anything about him, and Paul, of course, is extremely hurt and concerned, upset that his lover of 10 years doesn’t have clue who he is.”
Calling it “a funny play that deals with very dramatic elements,” director Lucian Restivo says Triangle had considered staging “4000 Days” for years, but it rose to top of the list during the pandemic because of its small cast.
Still, rehearsing the show in the pandemic came with its own challenges.
“When we started the rehearsal process, I unfortunately was exposed to COVID,” says Restivo, who had to direct by Zoom for two and a half weeks of rehearsal. “[I] was just able to join them last week. It’s been a crazy whirlwind.”
Overall, Jones says the show is “about love and how people react when the person they love is suffering.”
“4000 Days” runs April 29-May 15 at Richmond Triangle Players, 1300 Altamont Ave. For information, visit rtriangle.org or call 346-8113.