Theater collective Primal Forces' new production, Communion, promises “emotional fireworks” and more, says artistic director and theater founder Keith Garsson. Sparks will fly among the disparate characters: a lesbian psychiatrist, her alcoholic mother, and her evangelical daughter, each hooked on her own ardent and oppositional beliefs. The drama, infused with dark comedy, seems on point in these Trumpian times, when many families and entire communities are divided by their respective sociopolitical leanings. The play explores the dark places of relations, reparations, religion, and recovery.
Throughout the course of the play, the distance between recovering alcoholic Leda (Kim Ostrow) and her born-again daughter (Jenna Wyatt) is filled with silence, anger, and humor. Upon the advice of a shrink (Jacqueline Laggy), who is dealing with her own troubles, Leda tries to bridge that distance and prepare her daughter for looming calamity.
“My path has been to get away from commercial theater and to get [audiences] interested in smaller dramas done in small spaces — focusing on emotion rather than razzmatazz,” says Garsson, who networks globally to find plays and cultivate the work of emerging and established writers.
The script was penned by GLAAD and Obie Award-winning playwright Daniel McIvor, known for his sensitivity in approaching issues that affect and transcend the gay community. His resumé includes productions at New York’s Public Theatre Under the Radar Festival and P.S. 122, as well as performances at the Wexner Center at OSU and at the Spoletto Festival in South Carolina.
Communion continues Primal Forces' tradition of presenting nontraditional or alternative fare to a discerning audience, says Garsson, who established the company in 2014. The collective’s maiden production was the first post-Broadway staging of David Mamet’s The Anarchist. It was followed two years later by Sex With Strangers, which was named Best Play of 2016 by New Times, and The Devil’s Music, which earned Avery Sommers a Best Actress nod from New Times that same year. Both productions were directed by Genie Croft.
Garsson says that because theater competes with so many other forms of entertainment, it needs the support of the community. So the company invites feedback from audiences, especially millennials, a demographic that Primal Forces hopes to engage and retain as patrons.
“We’re hoping they’ll tell us what they’d like to see — and be honest. It’s great if people are coming back and wondering what we’re going to do next.”
Communion. 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday, January 24 through February 1 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Dr., Fort Lauderdale; primalforces.com. Tickets cost $30.