Grief can be a challenge to deal with. For some people, it’s a blow from which they gradually recover. For others, it’s a wound that won’t heal.
In “The Women of Lockerbie,” running through Nov. 23 in a well-acted SATE production, grief suffuses the stage. Playwright Deborah Brevoort crafts a story inspired by a notorious act of terrorism: A bomb planted on Pan Am transatlantic Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988, killing all 259 people on the plane and 11 on the ground.
In the spirit of Greek tragedy, Brevoort has a penchant for high-flown language. Unfortunately, “The Women of Lockerbie” is more prosaic than profound.
The play focuses on an American couple whose son was a passenger on the flight. Seven years after the bombing, bereaved mom Madeline Livingston (Margeau Baue Steinau) wanders the hills of Lockerbie, desperate to find an article of his clothing or some other tangible reminder of his existence. Husband Bill (David Wassilak) can do little but look on forlornly.
Offering as much comfort as they can are local women who give the play its title. Olive Allison (Leslie Wobbe) is the most consoling, along with three who serve as a sort of Greek chorus, each named for a distinct trait: intellect, emotion and memory.
Directed by Pamela Reckamp, “The Women of Lockerbie” strives for gravitas but musters only melodrama — much of it concerning whether a U.S. government official (Michael Cassidy Flynn) will allow the women to extend a gesture of sympathy to the families of the bombing victims.
But the performances are compelling. Steinau poignantly captures Madeline’s despair, and Wassilak persuasively balances empathy and exasperation. The cast also includes Sarajane Alverson, Kim Furlow, Jennifer Theby-Quinn and Teresa Doggett.
The production’s stagecraft is solid. Of particular note is Bess Moynihan’s scenic and lighting design, which conjures the appropriately contemplative mood.
For all its ambition, “The Women of Lockerbie” is best appreciated as an acting showcase.