On July 11th, the world premiere of DIG, written and directed by Theresa Rebeck, opened at Dorset Theatre.
DIG takes place in a plant shop, owned by the slightly grumpy, but hopelessly soft-hearted Roger, lovingly played by Jeffery Bean. The plant shop is in a dying part of town with little walk-in business or apparently, much business at all. What little business it has left – mostly corporate accounts serviced by Everett, the initially likeable stoner, played humorously and convincingly, by Greg Keller. Everett drives the van and handles most of the outside business. Roger used to drive the van but as Everett reminds Roger, he needs Everett, since Roger is not so great with people, once telling a customer that she was, “unfit to own a plant.”
Lou, played by Gordon Clapp, is Roger’s best friend and occasional accountant/bookkeeper. Apparently, Roger really doesn’t need an accountant and, according to Lou, can’t afford Everett, but they both need Roger. Ostensibly, Lou comes to see if Roger can salvage a plant that Roger gave to him as a birthday present. Evidently, Lou was unable to provide it with the proper care because he has been “distracted” and now the plant is dying. Lou is accompanied by his 32 year old daughter, Megan, played by Andrea Syglowski. Megan has recently been released into her father’s care after an attempted suicide, and since even her brothers won’t talk with her, Lou as father, gets her by default. Lou is full of rage and disgust – unable to forgive his daughter for the tragedy that prompted her suicide attempt. Denying his intent is to foist Megan onto Roger, that is exactly what he does. Megan is both funny and an emotional wreck, swinging from one extreme to the other.
Molly, played by Sarah Ellen Stephens, is a rare walk-in customer who “knows” Megan from “somewhere.” Megan initially tries to melt into the background but Molly is adamant that she recognizes her, then comes to the realization that she recognizes her from TV … and newspaper … and the trial regarding the death of Megan’s child. Molly, horrified at the realization, tells Megan what a horrible person she is. “How could anyone do that to a child?” At this point, Megan, who as a condition of her release must attend AA meetings, forgets all her AA slogans, snaps, and drives the one customer they’ve had in a while, out of the shop in a tsunami of screaming and swearing. At this point, nobody is happy. However, Megan needs a job to keep her busy, and will work without pay. Everett feels less threatened since Megan won’t be getting paid so his job is less at risk, and though Roger protests, he resigns himself to the situation.
Roger isn’t great with people, but he is wonderful with plants. Often, when conversations turn awkward, Roger becomes eloquent talking about plants – their physiology, care and growth. He begins to teach an interested Megan and a very disinterested Everett about pruning. You take a few minutes to look at the plant and get a feel for it. (You wouldn’t talk to the plant, because … that would be crazy.) Pinch pruning – take a little bit off the tips to keep it in shape and help it grow fuller. Maintenance pruning is a bit more intense. Terminal pruning, cut it all the way down and see if it grows back. Root pruning, you have to be respectful of the plant, because though cutting out some of the root seems harsh, it will actually make it grow better. Megan, as it tuns out, is a natural with plants, and after some time, with people and the plant shops as well. Molly, whom Megan earlier chased off, comes back. Molly has her own tragedy, and returns to apologize to Megan for lashing out at her the way she did and seek forgiveness.
Three months later, we know this because Megan references her 90 day chip from AA, and the shop is now full of the kinds of plants other people like, angiosperms – flowering plants, no longer just the typical green plants that Roger preferred, and Roger is allowing Megan to actually move plants around the store and he’s even started driving the van again. Megan seems so much better. Referencing AA many times – they are ruthless – she is taking responsibility for her actions and being honest with others. Then, in walks her ex-husband, Adam, played by David Mason. Adam shows up not to check on Megan’s welfare, but only to reaffirm/threaten Megan into maintaining her public version of the story about their son’s death. Turns out Megan’s “taking responsibility” was really just her way of punishing herself out of guilt. Though she was able to forgive Molly, she still hasn’t forgiven herself, partly because she has never been honest with anyone about her son’s death. Turns out, feeling guilty and taking the blame are not really the same as taking responsibility, and being consistent with a lie is not the same as being honest.
The cast is amazing. Jeffry Bean as Roger is simultaneously grumpy and sweet, trying to maintain control of his carefully ordered, self-contained world, and against protest, allowing himself to be manipulated by others. He manages to take a complicated character and imbue him with great empathy. Andrea Syglowski as Megan is PHENOMENAL – funny one moment, wracked with guilt, shame, anger, and self-loathing the next – she is a one woman roller coaster of emotions, twisting and turning on a dime, and believable every step of the way. Gordon Clapp (those of us of a certain age will recognize him from his 12 seasons on NYPD Blue) as Lou, is a tormented man, never knowing the full truth, unable to do what he needs to do as a father – forgive and care for his own tormented daughter. Greg Keller is hilarious as the perpetually stoned Everett, needed comic relief for much of the play, then ably showing us the much less likable, self-serving person Everett always was – someone willing to take advantage of a wounded person for his own benefit. Sarah Ellen Stephens as Molly, is convincing as the likeable outsider who helps Megan by first asking for her forgiveness, then befriending her. David Mason plays Adam, Megan’s controlling, emotionally exploitative ex-husband. The term sociopath comes to mind.
At one point, Megan asks Roger why he named the store DIG, not Plants or Flowers or something more obvious. It is an interesting choice. “Dig” is a verb. The most common definition is to move dirt around in some fashion, but another definition is to “uncover” something. The play uncovers much. We learn that Roger has been drawn to green plants, from childhood, taking the time to nurture them and provide them with the right conditions; the right amount of sunlight and water, the right pot. In a sense, Roger does this with the people around him: allowing Everett to drive his van, allowing Lou to do his accounting, allowing Megan to help him in the store. We also uncover the bias society generally has against people with addiction and emotional problems. Lou is not only financially strapped because of Megan’s legal and medical expenses, but we learn that the financial problems began earlier, when his wife developed cancer, “but somehow that is different.” It’s easier to accept the stress and financial strain brought on by the illness and death of his wife than forgive the “self-inflicted” tragedy of his own, still living daughter. When Adam shows up to talk with Megan, Roger goes into the backroom. We learn truth about how their child really died and who is responsible. After Adam leaves, Roger walks back in and Megan asks, “Did you listen?” He replies, “I didn’t listen but I did hear.” Roger didn’t dig for the truth, but it is uncovered.
I once attended an AA meeting at the Bill Wilson House in Dorset. A friend who was visiting was celebrating a milestone year of sobriety, 30 years. It was painful to hear the attendees’ stories. Many people made the same mistakes over and over. The point of the stories is not self-flagellation, but to acknowledge the truth, to keep it uncovered, reminding them why they do not want to fail. Once the real truth is uncovered, Megan falls off the wagon. But just like that terminal cut, where you prune the plant down to the ground and hope it will regrow, Megan chooses to start over again. Just like the people in the AA meeting need a safe place to live with their truths uncovered, Megan has to acknowledge what really happened, even if it is only to Roger and no one else, and forgive herself, so that she can begin to live, and grow, again.
At one point, Megan tries to seduce Roger, telling him, “Just think of me as a plant.” Ultimately, that is what Roger does. He treats her with the same care he gives his plants (especially the sick and broken ones), and provides her with a new environment, a “new pot” in which she can regrow. In doing so, he is able to grow as well.Part tragedy, part comedy, DIG confronts contemporary issues with an excellent script performed with passion, honesty, and humor. Put DIG on your “must see” list this summer.
July 11 – 27, 2019
For Tickets: buy online or call the Box Office at 802-867-2223.
$48 – $52
Dorset Theatre Festival
104 Cheney Rd., Dorset, VT 05251
Sunday, July 14, 2019 @ 2:00 PM
Wednesday, July 17, 2019 @ 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM
Thursday, July 18, 2019 @ 7:30 PM – (6:30 PM) Community Partner Night
Friday, July 19, 2019 @ 7:30 PM
Saturday, July 20, 2019 @ 7:30 PM
Sunday, July 21, 2019 @ 2:00 PM – Post-Show Talk Back
Wednesday, July 24, 2019 @ 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM
Thursday, July 25, 2019 @ 7:30 PM
Friday, July 26, 2019 @ 7:30 PM
Saturday, July 27, 2019 @ 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM