“Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer….., and all the clouds that lour’d upon our house….., our bruised arms hung up for monuments.” William Shakespeare, from Richard III.

 The mind is a wonderful and mysterious thing.  Regrettably, the golden years of many people are plagued by the loss of memory and reasoning.  In Winter, Central Works Theater’s 57th world premiere, the topic is attacked in a compact but effective treatment.

Randall Nakano.

Robeck has recently been forced to retire.  A research professor, he rejects mental inactivity and is motivated to complete his final experiments with mice looking to find the “generous” gene.  But having lost lab privileges at the university, he has moved the experiment into his home.  Annis is suffering from mental deterioration with occasional disruptive episodes.  Although she loves her family,  she has no mice.  Sensing no future, she considers that it is better to leave the world with some modicum of control before the final moment.

Is there ever a “fine day to die?”  How can one know it is the right time?  With an aging population, Alzheimer’s and other conditions of mental deterioration are becoming more prevalent, and literary works about dealing with the challenge are growing.  Another work that specifically addresses the consideration of ending one’s life while having the mental faculties to do so is “Still Alice.”  But the crux of that work which is based on a true story is that despite thoughtful planning, Alice was unable to access the information necessary to carry out her suicide intention.

Steve Budd, Julie Kuwabara.

As much as parents would like to love and treat their children equally, natural circumstance makes that impossible.  Changes in parents’ ages and relationship, family life cycle, changing economic conditions, children’s personalities, and sibling relationships all operate to undermine the parents’ best intentions.  Many of us who face the end game in our parents’ lives also realize that the parent’s expectations and trust in their children at that time does not always align with the parent’s favoritism.  Which child is most likely to carry out the elder parent’s wishes, however grave or however in conflict with the child’s wishes?  Which child is most likely to act in loco parentis and impose the child’s value system over the parent’s?

John Patrick Moore

In addition to parent-child relationships, Winter looks at sibling associations. Roddy and Evan were always separated by age and dispositions, but as adults, their lives and values are radically different.  As is the case with many, If they weren’t siblings, they would never establish contact.  Their sister was long ago deceased, but her daughter, LD, was partly raised by Annis and Robeck, and is a surrogate child and sister to the brothers.  Their relationships are the dynamics of real life.

Berkeley City Club, designed by esteemed architect Julia Morgan, is a wonderful, intimate setting for this work.  Director Gary Graves and his creative staff nicely integrate Morgan’s fixtures in the small performance space into the stage design.  Together with sound and light that envelopes the audience, the experience is like sharing the living room with the family.  Steve Budd, Julie Kuwabara, John Pactrick Moore, Phoebe Moyer, and Randall Nakano bring the family to life with great sensitivity.

Winter resonates because it is an every family story, told with compassion and understanding.

Winter by Julie Jensen, based on the short story Robeck by Margaret Pabst Battin, is produced by Central Works and plays at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St., Berkeley, CA through August 20, 2017.


About the Author

Victor CordellVictor Cordell publishes theater and opera reviews on and Having lived in New York, London, Hongkong, Sydney, Washington DC, Houston, Monterey, and elsewhere, he has enjoyed performing arts of many ilks world wide. His service involvement has been on the boards of directors of three small opera companies (Monterey, San Francisco Lyric, and Island City) and a theater company (Cutting Ball). He is a member of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle and American Theatre Critics Association as well as being a Theatre Bay Area adjudicator. His career was divided between international banking and academe, most recently as a professor at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and an administrator at San Francisco State University. Victor holds a Ph.D. in marketing from the University of Houston.View all posts by Victor Cordell →