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Monday, January 23, 2012

Yosemite Review-1st Sunday matinee preview 1-22-2012

I'm still reeling from yesterday's preview of "Yosemite" at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in the West Village. Daniel Talbott has written a provocative, stirring, and sometimes shocking piece about a family torn asunder by tragedy, fear and resentment, and their longing for happiness in spite of it all.

Kathryn Erbe as Julie

Seth Numrich as Jake

Libby Woodbridge as Ruby

Noah Galvin as Jer

As the play opens, we see three young siblings in the snowy woods of the Sierra Madre foothills in Northern California (hence the title). The older brother, Jake, is busy digging a hole in the ground while his sister Ruby and little brother Jer look on. As they argue and fret over their predicament, we begin to realize the awful and sad task their mother Julie has assigned to them, while Ruby and Jer take turns cradling a mysterious bundle that is later revealed to be their dead baby brother Nathan. The baby apparently has died either of SIDS and/or neglect, and was left in his crib for three days before his siblings are sent to the woods to bury him. "Make it deep," commands Julie when she finally appears, rifle in hand, to admonish Jake to continue digging her youngest son's grave.

Jake is burdened with the task at hand, but he and his family are also burdened with memories of losing their beloved father and how their mom fell apart after his death. The youngest, Jer, who complains of hunger after feeding his Fruit Loops to the family dog, is constantly wishing they could go home to Grandma and visit Disneyland. Ruby, who is holding Nathan, wrapped in a black plastic bag, sits on a log and complains of the cold and the hole in her boot that her mom tried to mend with cotton balls and masking tape. Ruby and Jake clash several times as she prattles on nervously about Jake's love life and how deep the hole should be so that "animals won't smell they won't dig him up." The language is raw and profane at times, as Jake's rage erupts into a tirade aimed at Ruby so she will back off and let him dig in peace. He drops the R-word a couple of times in anger as Jake criticizes his sister's mindless comments about a girl he slept with, which I found more disturbing than all the F-bombs unleashed during the 1 hour and twenty minute production. If a word can really be used as a weapon, the R-word is it. I took note of how Ruby withdraws momentarily into silence after her brother's vicious dressing down, while poor Jer sits quietly on the log holding Nathan. "We're not better!" Jake insists as he settles the argument. My heart broke for all four of them, as this scene takes place just before Julie appears.

Julie appears lost in her own sorrows as she greets her children and inspects the grave before recounting her childhood experience as a "paper girl" for the local newspaper in her hometown of Oakland, CA. She also recalls cutting off the curls her mother had so fervently created so she would appear less girlish, and get the job she so wanted, having won over her boss with her "spunk." Real fireworks come after Julie confesses that she didn't want Nathan, her child by her second husband Mike, and describes carrying Nathan as feeling "like a rock" inside her. After Julie turns on her children with the accusation "I think that you're ungrateful," she and Jake have an all-out fight onstage that got so intense they were throwing dirt at each other! I sat in the front row, close enough to almost feel the heat of battle. Whew!

After the dust settled, literally, Julie tells her children a sweet story about her late husband and a penny he finds and asks her to kiss before he swallows it, assuring her that she's safe with him. She weeps for him and how his death had ended her happiness. I could actually picture in my head Vincent as the love of her life (if only).:) As the family collectively mourns their late father/husband's loss, Julie tries to comfort her children before leaving, rifle in hand. Julie's parting words to them are "I want us all to be happy." Moments later, a shot rings out while the children are huddled together on the log, baby Nathan in Ruby's arms.

Previews began on Wednesday, January 18, 2012 and the opening night is Thursday, January 26, 2012. Performances run through February 26, 2012 at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater at 224 Waverly Place in New York City.

Discount codes for Yosemite tickets:
$10 student tickets-YSTU10
$15 under 30 tickets-YU30
$15 theater artist tickets-YTA

Visit to order your discount tickets.

Still photos courtesy of the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.


  1. Thanks so much for this long review, Blanca. I much appreciate to read your impressions about Yosemite.

  2. Thanks, Antje. I'm going to the final performance on February 26 also. I'm so happy that Kate is back onstage. The house was sold out for last Sunday's matinee, btw.

    1. Oh yes, it's so great to have Kathryn back on stage. I wish I could fly to NYC and watch Yosemite.