The aroma of apple pie slowly wafts over the audience in “Apples in Winter,” a sometimes funny but ultimately tragic story by playwright Jennifer Fawcett. The play is a co-production of Something Something Theatre Company and Tucson Labyrinth Project.
There is just one character, Miriam. She is in an unfamiliar industrial kitchen making an apple pie for her son, who sits on death row. Her pie was his request for his last supper. A large clock on the wall ticks loudly, marking the time before he is to die.
Sounds maudlin, no?
It isn’t. But it is disturbing.
Miriam unweaves her tale as she cooks. We learn that 22 years ago, her son committed a crime that landed him on the pathway to the electric chair. She’s baking in the prison kitchen because she wasn’t allowed to bring a pie in. “What if I put something in the pie and cheated the state of their ritual?” she says.
Her story is full of heartbreak and confusion. Her parents were largely absent. She would not do that to her son. She loved him fiercely, cared for him, gave him all he needed. She loved how he would take a bite of her apple pie and close his eyes as he chewed it. How could he have turned out this way? What could she have done differently?
Meanwhile, she’s making that pie, sharing the recipe, giving her son a final gift.
Roxanne Harley gave Miriam a big heart and troubled mind.
Her angst at how her son’s life turned out, her fear and her fierce love were all palpable.
Barclay Goldsmith directed this production with a storyteller’s sensibility. Goldsmith retired in 2004 from Pima Community College’s Theater Department, and again in 2014 as artistic director of the company he founded, Borderlands Theater. But he can’t stay away from the stage. This is the second production for his Labyrinth Project. Last year, he directed the startlingly good “Dogs of Rwanda.”
“Apples in Winter” gives us another reason to hope Goldsmith continues to forget that he has retired.