left, Susan Sweeney (Peg), James Pickering
(Gunner), and Simon Provan (Jack) in In Tandem
Theatre’s production of “The Outgoing
by Mark Frohna
— The rustic stage set designed by Steve Barnes greets
us as we enter the theater, luring us into such a
beautifully cozy retreat. But as in most things,
appearance belies reality.
is enjoying a little fishing while his son Jack sits by
and listens to his father regale some old stories — a
pleasant scene. However, Gunner doesn’t recognize Jack
as his son.
Tandem Theatre chose “The Outgoing Tide,” the story
about Alzheimer’s disease and its ramifications for
that person and the other major figures in his or her
wife, Peg, has called Jack to visit to discuss what is
to be done about his father. She’s been looking into
facilities to accommodate his present needs while
reducing her own stress. Jack is struggling with his
imminent divorce and the reclusive behavior of his
youngest son. He doesn’t seem capable of dealing with
another thorny issue.
focus is on Gunner, so beautifully portrayed by James
Pickering, an actor who never fails to deliver. We get
snapshots of Gunner’s life — his marriage to Peg
because of an unplanned pregnancy, his uncomfortable
relationship with a son who didn’t meet his
expectations, his career as a negotiator with truckers
flashbacks, we gain insights into him, his wife and his
son. Gunner is lovable enough and good-hearted but
flawed, as we all are. He is funny, stubborn and
insensitive at times, but he has tried to do his job as
breadwinner, husband and father.
Sweeney as Peg comes across as well-meaning but nagging
and judgmental. She can be annoying to both Gunner and
Jack. But she has followed the path given her by her
religion and the norms of society at that time. Her
dreams of becoming a teacher gave way to the demands of
being a wife and mother.
Provan plays the misunderstood and confused son well. He
radiates anxiety. We hope he’ll find his way, but
there’s only a sliver of possibility shining through
final plan for Gunner’s end-of-life decisions are
well-dramatized. We want to cheer and weep at the same
time. It certainly raises the issue of whether or not we
should have the freedom to control our own destiny.
enjoyed this play so aptly directed by Chris Flieller,
but didn’t exactly feel like skipping down the street
as I left the theater.
“The Outgoing Tide”
drama runs through March 18 at the Tenth Street Theatre
on 10th Street and Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee. Call
414-271-1371 or visit