‘Apples in Winter’ an intimate, artful, must-see show

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Apples in Winter

Old Creamery Theatre — through July 28

Marquetta Senters as Miriam in ‘Apples in Winter.’ — Alexandra Olsen/Old Creamery Theatre

Apples in Winter, by Jennifer Fawcett, opened this weekend at Old Creamery Theatre. This is a play that everyone needs to see. The one-woman show is poignantly enacted by Marquetta Senters, reprising the role that she premiered last year at Riverside Theatre.

From silent entrance to screaming ending, Senters brings an astounding range of emotions to life during the 90-minute show. Senters’s character, Miriam, tells a story of the generations of her family, and the cracks in those stories appear as she narrates. In addition to the storytelling, Miriam offers philosophical ponderings on what is natural, what is unnatural and how human beings navigate life, violence and its aftermath.

About 20 minutes into the show, it becomes apparent that Miriam’s son, Robert, is not only in prison, but on death row. She has been allowed the use of the prison kitchen to make his last meal: an apple pie. As Miriam invites the audience to look inside the history of her apple pie and the apple tree that furnishes the fruit, the tree and its fruit become a metaphor for her son’s life.

Senters artfully tells the story of Miriam’s family using small, faded, verbal snapshots from this desperate mother’s point of view. It’s a family that’s had its own small troubles, which then expand into a life of larger troubles — a story so many families can understand. As the story is told, the audience receives step-by-step instructions on how to bake the perfect apple pie. Indeed, Senters is mixing and baking a real pie throughout the show.

In creating this comforting confection, Miriam is at once trying to recapture the sweetness of her son’s younger years and, more importantly, the sweetness she felt at being his mother. She is also grasping at a future that is about to be cut short. Throughout her son’s life, her pie making has served as the calendar to her family’s life. She focuses on time, saying “Rituals are a way of marking time.”

‘Apples in Winter’ runs through July 28. — Alexandra Olsen/Old Creamery Theatre

Apples in Winter is a tale of a mother in anguish, a mother wracked with guilt, a mother grasping for reasons — a mother trying to salvage the last minutes of what she thought was the truth of her life. Senters tells a massive story with her riveting performance. The director, stage manager, technical director and lighting designer (David Q. Combs, Katie Colletta, Marianna Coffey and Jim Vogt, respectively) combine their insights and talents to create an intimate, effective stage, props placed with Chekhovian thoughtfulness.

After each show, Old Creamery Theatre is holding a talkback to focus on criminal and social justice as it relates to persons who are incarcerated, as well as to their families. On Saturday night, July 20, representatives of the Iowa Justice Action Network (IJAN) joined Senters on stage for the talkback, which included a short summary of the work IJAN does, and invited questions and commentary from the audience.

Through these talkbacks, Apples in Winter becomes more than a play — it is an education and an invitation to reconsider what one thinks one knows about persons who are incarcerated and their families.

Apples in Winter runs through July 28, with performances Thursday, July 25 and Sunday, July 28 at 2 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, July 26-27 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15-32.50.

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