DORSET — “Dig,” a tale of an unfortunate young woman whose tragic circumstances have led her to a suicide attempt, has a nearly unique quality for a comedy — it’s riveting.
Dorset Theatre Festival opened the world premiere production of Theresa Rebeck’s new play Friday at the Dorset Playhouse, that was not only darkly and laugh-out-loud funny, it proved deeply satisfying.
“Dig” opens with Megan and her father, Lou, visiting a plant shop owned by his friend Roger. A conversation that begins casually reveals that 30-something Megan is home under her father’s care after leaving the hospital. When a customer clearly recognizes Megan and her hidden truth, Megan blows up at her.
Still, Megan is desperate for a job — even without pay — and she hounds the uptight Roger until he gives in. Like the plants, she thrives in the shop and develops a tentative friendship with Roger. But Megan cannot avoid her past, and circumstances are determined to bring out the sordid details and nearly destroy Megan — again.
Only the healing quality of the plants and a touch of humanity can offer Megan new life.
“Dig” is a comedy, but it’s a lot more than that. The characters, particularly those of Megan and Roger, the plant shop owner, are fully developed and real, as are their responses to the circumstances. Yet there is delightfully witty but appropriate dialogue, and the juxtaposition of events is traditional comedy. More like a mystery, layer after layer is revealed in this touching tale of healing and redemption.
New plays often do not benefit from the direction of the playwright, but “Dig” certainly has. The cast is excellent, the dialogue and interaction are taut but not unrealistically, resulting in some very convincing storytelling.
Andrea Syglowski breathed life into Megan, inhabiting the character. Megan is complex, deeply drawn and mostly sympathetic, and Syglowski delivered.
Jeffrey Bean kept Roger’s crusty discomfort at having his well-ordered life being tampered with on the outside, but the inner machinations — and heart — were palpable. And his convincing portrayal of a plant nerd was priceless.
The other characters were more simply drawn. Gordon Clapp delivered the desperation of Megan’s untrusting father Lou. Sarah Ellen Stephens was the distressed customer Molly who becomes Megan’s friend. And David Mason delivered the dangerous self-centeredness of Megan’s ex-husband Adam.
Comic relief came from Greg Keller as the stoner Everett, the delivery boy that Roger just can’t get rid of. He added much needed levity in a sometimes tense situation.
Dorset’s physical production, per usual, was wonderfully extravagant. Christopher and Justin Swader’s realistic plant shop was a virtual jungle, expertly lit by Philip S. Rosenburg. Attractive and appropriate costumes by Tilly Grimes and complementary sound design by Fitz Patton completed the picture.
Theresa Rebeck’s “Dig” is an entertaining and deeply satisfying comedy, and it will be surprising if it doesn’t attract many subsequent productions.