Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Escaped Alone

Review by Rob Spiegel

Also see Rob's review of A Tuna Christmas and Dean's reviews of It's a Wonderful Life and The Lion in Winter

Image Logo by Rica Maestas
One way to look at Escaped Alone by British playwright Caryl Churchill is that small talk is never really small talk—it always reveals character. In this 2016 drama, four women are chatting in a garden. They are all around 70 years old, and they manage to both skirt troublesome issues and intermittently blurt out their fears and compulsions. All in seemingly trite conversations.

Yet the conversations are not trite. Vi (Nancy Jeris) spent time in jail for killing her husband in her kitchen, which leaves her with a fear of kitchens. Sally (Elizabeth Huffman) is afraid of cats. And Lena (Dodie Montgomery) is caught in depression. These three friends are joined by Mrs. Jarrett (Laurie Thomas), who seems to be new to the group.

Mrs. Jarrett's monologues of terror and destruction occur between mini-scenes that take place over a number of afternoons. The stage goes dark save for a spotlight on Mrs. Jarrett's face. In each monologue she describes dizzying scenes of apocalyptic horror, where gas masks have become fashion statements and heavy people sell off slices of themselves to feed the starving.

These surreal monologues spin a cascade of terrifying images of a world coming apart as civility breaks down and any semblance of humanity or kindness is lost. Then—boom!—we're back in the suburban-like backyard with the ladies who are chit-chatting their small talk that isn't really small talk, since it reveals fears they are unable to overcome.

Churchill was 78 when Escaped Alone premiered. It's a dark view of a world on the edge—a series of calm afternoons before the end of civilization when a few friends who don't particularly care for each other show off their fears offhandedly. The script is dense and poetic, even when it seems trivial and light. The dark monologues by Mrs. Jarrett strip all of the backyard conversation of their light.

This one-act runs just shy of an hour. In many ways it seems longer, since the language is challenging and there's almost no narrative drive. Director Jacqueline Reid, a pro with tons of directing chops, keeps the pace persistent and unrelenting. It's like a twisted car accident—you can't stare, and you can't look away. You absorb it in glances.

Each of the actors turns in a fine performance, but the focus keeps coming back to Mrs. Jarrett. Thomas delivers Mrs. Jarrett's monologues in a solid, unflinching voice that refrains from overdramatizing the already overly dramatic words that describe the destruction of civilization—a nice counterweight to the lovely lost ladies in the garden.

The production meets Fusion's usual high standards, with superb scenic and lighting design by Richard K. Hogle and strong sound design by Brent Stevens.

Escaped Alone, through December 16, 2018, at the Cell Theatre, 700 1st. St. NW, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Thursday and Friday at 7:30, Saturday at 2:00 and 7:30, and Sunday at 3:00. General admission is $40, seniors $35, and under 30, pay your age. For reservations, go to or call 505-766-9412.