CoHo Productions' The Outgoing Tide digs into hefty stuff: Playwright Bruce Graham tackles the dilemmas faced when a family member has Alzheimer's disease, along with moral, ethical and emotional conflicts relating to the right to die. The plot isn't revolutionary, nor is the reliance on humor to temper the heartbreak. Flashback scenes, which provide emotional backstory, are similarly standard. Thankfully, director Stephanie Mulligan has a superb take on Graham's candid sadness and blunt humor, managing to streamline the somewhat unwieldy flashbacks and steer clear of melodramatic timing. Gunner (Tobias Andersen) has rapidly developing Alzheimer's and frustratingly fades in and out of cognizance. Wife Peg and son Jack must cope with Gunner's forgetfulness and confusion, as well as his constant requests to have pancakes "tomorrow." And, inevitably, they must contend with his determination to "tie up loose ends" on his own terms, while he still has the ability to do so. Andersen shines as a feisty and lovable Gunner, while Jane Fellows is simultaneously grating and endearing as his wife. As Jack, meanwhile, Gary Norman skillfully conveys his character's sadness and sense of mediocrity. This outstanding trio prompts audiences to zip between laughter and tears for the full 105-minute runtime. Thanks to a resoundingly stellar cast, The Outgoing Tide is a must-see.
SEE IT: The Outgoing Tide is at the CoHo Theater, 2257 NW Raleigh St., 220-2646. 7:30 pm Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 pm Sundays through Nov. 9. $20-$25.