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Virginia Rep’s Hanover Tavern world premiere of Bonnie and Claire gives audiences a glimpse of what it’s like to grow older as seen through the eyes of two sisters in their silver years and their young adult niece.
The play, written by Chesterfield’s Bo Wilson who has penned some of Virginia Rep’s most popular shows, including The Charitable Sisterhood hits and Ella and Her Fella Frank, was on hold during the pandemic. During this time, however, Wilson held readings with Virginia Rep to gather feedback and assist in rewrites.
The result is a perfectly crafted, heartwarming, and funny story about family baggage, relationships, independence, and the vulnerability that comes with aging at home.
Set in a small college town, most of the action unfolds in an onstage car. In the autumn of their lives, Bonnie and Claire find themselves increasingly reliant on their niece Zoe to get around. Zoe is trying to start a business and a family of her own while conducting delicate diplomacy between the feuding siblings.
Directed by Jan Powell, the three-actor cast consists of Melissa Johnston Price as Bonnie, Jan Guarino as Claire, and Sydnee S. Graves as Zoe. The acting in Bonnie and Claire is top-notch across the board and the script elicits an equal amount of laughs and sighs.
Melissa Johnston Price (as Bonnie) delivers in the challenging role of helping the audience get to know and love the chronically grumpy Bonnie as the character deals with losing her driving independence for good.
Jan Guarino shines as the slightly younger, more cosmopolitan, and recently widowed sister Claire who has moved in with her older sister.
Sydnee S. Graves as Zoe is the glue that holds the sisters together and helps them explore not only their family history – Bonnie stayed in the family home to care for aging parents while Claire followed her dream to NYC – but the current challenges of using a cell phone and appearing in court for a ticket hearing.
Kudos to sound designer Jacob Mishler for artistic car doors slamming, horns honking, and seatbelts clicking. The generational music playing over the car radio to open and close scenes was perfect.
I knew Bonnie and Claire was a winner when my list of people who I think should see the play started growing at intermission. Everyone from my twenty-something kids to my senior mother-in-law will find someone or something to identify with. Bonnie and Claire is lighthearted, tender, and funny. The characters are relatable and the pacing of the show is spot on.
Bonnie and Claire runs through June 12 at Hanover Tavern. For tickets, showtimes, and safety protocol, visit Virginia Rep.
Feature photo by Aaron Sutten: Melissa Johnston Price as Bonnie and Sydnee Graves as Zoe