Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 9, 2023

Review: Great Barrington Public Theater, "Off Peak"

Great Barrington Public Theater, Great Barrington, MA
through July 23, 2023
By Suzanne Wells

"Off Peak" is unexpectedly therapeutic. Written by Brenda Withers and directed by James Warwick, the play makes its New England debut at Great Barrington Public Theater.

"Off Peak" provides a snapshot into the lives of two lovers who, after 17 years apart, find themselves together on a train headed to Poughkeepsie. Sarita, played by Peggy Pharr Wilson, a former performance musician turned high school, Italian teacher; and Martin, played by Kevin O’Rourke, a supposedly reformed corporate drone, recall various details of their relationship while trapped on a broken-down train. With time on their hands, and the knowledge and experience that comes with age, the couple work through their issues and regrets with each other and with themselves.

Costume Designer, George Veale, create two middle-aged, middle-class people with a slight bohemian past in flowing coats and scarves and shiny, sensible leather shoes. It is easy to imagine Sarita singing on a stage or teaching in a classroom. Just as easy to picture Martin sitting at a desk listening to inspirational videos.
Photo by Kat Humes

The stage is set with an open-ended commuter train car, designed by Sasha Schwartz. The car is equipped with emergency stickers, old leather seats, and grimy doors and windows. Collaborating with Lara Dubin, Lighting Designer; and Jacob Fisch, Sound Designer; the yellow flashing lights in the windows and the sounds of passing trains make for a very realistic scene. The only thing missing is the smell of body odor for which I am grateful.

Both Wilson’s and O’Rourke’s performances effuse emotion. Wilson’s conflicted feelings of surprise and nervousness at seeing her former love evolve into a passionate ire over Martin’s almost insulting view of their past relationship. O’Rourke’s uneasy attempt to make “enlightened” amends for his own perceived faults takes a dramatic turn to a resigned acknowledgement that he may still be in the dark. 

Will these two lovers ever make it to their destination?