Gregory S. Moss’ beautifully poetic play, Indian Summer, caught me off-guard in a pleasantly unexpected way. After the first act, which introduces us to lively characters, I was amused, but sort of questioned the point; It had yet to find its’ compass. The payoff, however, was well worth it by the end and the food for thought that Moss prepared was deeply satisfying.
Indian Summer takes place entirely on the seaside of a Southern Rhode Island over the course of a single summer. Teen-aged Daniel (Owen Campell) is eagerly awaiting the return of his mother and bides his time both with his grandfather, George, (Jonathan Hadary) and on the beach (a marvelous set with gobs of sand designed by Dane Laffrey). Daniel, who is considered a tourist, makes the acquaintance of Izzy (Elise Kibler), a tough, wise cracking local who picks a petty argument with Daniel. In typical romantic fashion, they begin to fall for one another. However, the romance is complicated with the presence of Jeremy (Joe Tippett), her dim witted fraternity jock boyfriend.
All of Moss’ characters are a bit rough around the edges but as time goes on, we learn that they have hearts of gold and although they sometimes border on caricatures, Moss has drawn them with genuine respect and admiration. (In the program notes, he describes his play as a love letter to Rhode Island).
There is much talk of change here- a recognition of it, a wish for it, and blame for it. George, who eventually acknowledges the ill-fated destiny of his grandson’s relationship with Izzy, summarizes the meaning of the title:
“Indian Summer”- that margin of sun-lit warmth after the end of August that always feels exceptional, like a pocket of unexpected time, a little reprieve between seasons, in which things, people, lives and stories, are given a chance to collect themselves to reconfigure and, possibly, to change. Where one finds one’s self invited, by God, or Nature, or the whims of climate, to merely enjoy the surprise of it..
Carolyn Cantor’s subtle direction allows her impeccable cast to grasp the essence of Moss’ language. However, Hadary’s George paints the most touching portrait in this quartet. As a man who is trying to make sense of his wife’s passing, he displays a sarcastic exterior with an undercurrent of vulnerability and doubt.
Moss has found the perfect balance between superficial simplicities of beach life and the layered complexities of human nature, creating a work that is as beautiful and deep as the ocean itself.
Indian Summer runs through June 26th at Playwrights Horizons’ Mainstage Theater (416 West 42nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenues) For tickets, visit the box office or https://www.playwrightshorizons.org/shows/plays/indian-summer/