Reviewed by Judy Richter
Dad gets home late from work. Mom is annoyed, especially after a trying day with their nearly 7-year-old daughter, who has been put to bed at 5 p.m. Dad goes upstairs to check on the girl, but she's missing.
Thus the plot is set in motion in Steve Yockey's "Bellwether" in its world premiere at Marin Theatre Company. It's an ironic contrast to the opening scene when six neighbors extol the virtues of their gated community, Bellwether. "This is a safe neighborhood," they say. It doesn't seem so safe after the list of missing children grows to 10 names, all of them vanished without a trace.
As the search for Amy, the first missing child, proves fruitless, the finger of blame begins to point toward her parents, Alan (Gabriel Marin) and Jackie Draft (Arwen Anderson), who we know are innocent. However, the stress of missing Amy, being grilled again and again by the unsympathetic police and facing their neighbors' accusations put a great strain on the Drafts' relationship, which already had some cracks.
While the action proceeds somewhat naturally during most of the first act, it gets scary just before intermission. Then the second act takes a supernatural turn, thus living up to the play's billing as a fairy tale for adults. This act takes quite a bit of suspension of disbelief by the audience. That part didn't quite work for me. Nevertheless, I found myself totally rapt.
Even during the first act, some details don't add up, including a 5 p.m. bedtime for a 7-year-old. Then there are the detectives (Danny Wolohan and Patrick Jones, who also appear as neighbors). It's highly unprofessional of them to tell the Drafts that their colleagues are betting that the couple are responsible for Amy's disappearance.
Still, the play benefits from a first-rate production under the direction of Ryan Rilette. Marin and Anderson are excellent as the parents go through their ordeal with raw emotions. Rachel Harker plays Maddy, a neighbor with whom Jackie is friendly. Joining the chorus of neighbors are Liz Sklar, Marissa Keltie and Mollie Stickney. These three women also portray ghoulish TV reporters who continue to play up the story and to make their own insinuations even when there's nothing new to report. Completing the cast are Kathryn Zdan as the Doll and Jessica Lynn Carroll as Amy.
The Drafts' suburban home set is designed by Giulio Cesare Perrone with lighting by York Kennedy, costumes by Fumiko Bielefeldt, and music and sound by Chris Houston.
After it's over, one is left wondering what happens next, especially for Alan and Jackie. Their lives will never be the same again.