'Outgoing Tide' reveals anxieties of Alzheimer's 

By JULIE McHALE - Post Theater Critic

March 8, 2018

From left, Susan Sweeney (Peg), James Pickering (Gunner), and Simon Provan (Jack) in In Tandem Theatre’s production of “The Outgoing Tide.”.
Photo by Mark Frohna 

MILWAUKEE — 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.

Gunner 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.

In 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 life.

Gunner’s 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.

The 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 and more.

Through 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.

Susan 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.

Simon 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 here.

The 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.

I 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”

The drama runs through March 18 at the Tenth Street Theatre on 10th Street and Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee. Call 414-271-1371 or visit