Giving Tree’s ‘The Tin Woman’ warms the heart with artful storytelling

The Tin Woman

Giving Tree Theater — through Jan. 26

Joy (Claire Boston, far L) and Darla (Amy Kaduce) meet an unlikely stranger as the play flirts with unreality. — courtesy of Giving Tree Theater

The Tin Woman, by Sean Grennan, opened at Giving Tree Theater in Marion during the icy rain last Friday, but the atmosphere in the theater was anything but cold. The Tin Woman tells the story of Jack and Joy — the former, an organ donor; the latter, the recipient of his heart. This six-person cast tells a beautiful story of how lives intersect and how the universe can conspire to bring every person the kind of comfort and closure they need.

Going into the show, I knew the premise, and I was frankly expecting a cheesy script. Nothing could have been more incorrect. The show is wonderfully constructed, and it is excellently enacted by the Giving Tree cast. Thoughtful direction by Danielle Lee puts Kyle Shedeck (Jack) hauntingly on stage throughout the play. He interacts and reacts with the story that unfolds. Shedeck does not draw attention to himself, but watching the play, my eye was drawn to his expressions and movements because they added an artful layer to the story telling.

Joy (Claire Boston, seated, L) joins Jack’s family on an awkward visit. — courtesy of Giving Tree Theater

Joy (Claire Boston), after receiving Jack’s heart, begins to question her worth. Her conversations with Darla (Amy Kaduce) and her own ponderings center on how life goes on — and who gets to live it and why. As Joy is trying to get on with her renewed life, Jack’s parents, Hank (Jon Day) and Alice (Barb Arceneaux), and sister, Sammy (Mariah Noel), struggle to come to terms with his death. As a sister of a woman who died and donated her organs, I can say with complete authority that their conversations and conflicts around Jack’s death and organ donation are all too realistic.

The stage design (Jamie Henley) creates a hospital room, an apartment, a gravesite and a home without overlapping any of them, creating the perfect canvas to tell this story. Eventually Joy and Jack’s family meet — and it is this heartrending meeting that brings the cast together, wrapping up loose ends between everyone. As the ensemble tied together the story, the audience was glad Giving Tree placed tissue boxes around the theater.

It may be a cold time of year, but The Tin Woman invites you to brave the freeze to ponder grief in all its forms and to realize that most people are average, living average lives but everyone has a bit of a hero in them.

The Tin Woman runs through Jan. 26; tickets are $22. A portion of the proceeds from this show will go to the Iowa Donor Network.

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