Derby Reunites Family in ‘Roses’ Play

El Vaquero Staff Writer

How can a sport bring a family together? The Theater Arts Department presents “Run for the Roses,” a new play by Brent Falco, and directed by Matt Foyer, about the long struggle of a dysfunctional family that finds hope in a sport called the Kentucky Derby. Not only is this a race for horses, but it is the last hope to bring together a family that was torn apart by death.?

The play begins in an unusual way, as an old woman dressed in a floral dress and hat appears in a wheelchair from backstage, catching the audience off-guard.

With a camera in hand, she begins to tell her story. The audience comes to a sudden realization that this woman is in fact, dead.

As the stage is lit, the audience is introduced to the four characters who make up the Gianna family. The grandmother (Jordon Blaquera), begins her story from afar in a rainy Louisville, Ky.

The scene drifts into the Gianna home, as the family members begin to share their story.

Immediately the audience begins to get a sense that this family is in fact very unhappy. The father Joe (Eric Haghnazarian), who is a business owner, seems to spend countless hours on the porch smoking cigars, while the mother Faith (Nancy Greene), a Spanish teacher, continues to struggle with the death of her mother, Elizabeth Faith Astley.

Faith’s fear of putting the past aside lives in the boxes full of the items belonging to her mother scattered through the house.

Throughout the production, she attempts to open them, in hopes that it will give her closure.?

Their daughter, Elizabeth (Paityn James), who prefers to be called “Liz,” is an actress who lives in California.

Faith sent Liz a plane ticket to Kentucky, in hopes that she would join them to attend the long anticipated Kentucky Derby.

Liz’s grudge against Faith for not inviting her to the funeral caused serious problems between mother and daughter. By their dialogue, the audience can feel the tension between the two characters.

The day of the derby eventually arrives and ends, followed by a drunken entrance with brother Marshall (Travis Riner).

Both siblings argue about past experiences leading to the death of their grandmother, her alcoholism, and Marshall’s hidden secret about his passion of photography and how he pursues this hobby instead of running the family business.

Fortunately, Joe overhears this conversation and steps in to let Marshall know that he can do as he pleases in life, and that Liz needs to face her fears and speak to her mother.?

As the issue between father and children is resolved, there still remains a gap between Liz and Faith. Eventually, the audience comes to a final realization about why Liz was not invited to the funeral. ?
Faith did not want to have Liz present, because she felt she wanted the people there who appreciated and cared for her, and knew that Liz did not particularly like her grandmother. In fact, a deep grudge was held towards both women, because Liz knew of her grandmother’s never-ending battle with alcohol, which eventually became a habit of Faith’s.

Liz’s embarrassment of both women caused her to drift away from her mother. ?

After the discussion with her father, Liz decides to begin opening a few of the boxes, to finally put an end to the family burden.

As she travels upstairs to face her mother, all problems are resolved as Faith educates Liz about who her grandmother really was, how she gave Faith roses as a young girl and her unconditional love for her.

As Liz comes to an understanding of the woman whom her grandmother was before her alcoholism, the problem is resolved.

The family gathers outside, while drinking a toast to one another. The dysfunction, misery, and lack of communication all leads, as Faith says, “to a new beginning,” and the play closes.?

The actors give flawless performances, each portraying their characters in a mature and accurate manner. Haghnazarian’s serious posture and manly voice bring his character to life, while James’ calm but confident attitude gives a sense of independence to her character.

Riner’s acting is exceptional as he plays the role of the angry brother, and Greene’s confident acting skills shine through her performance as the dysfunctional mother. ?

The interesting factor in all of this remains that the grandmother is present through all family discussions.

Thunder roars each time she stops scenes to give her perspective, as if she is asking questions from the world above.

The audience sees her spirit, while the family sees nothing.

This play is different than the typical productions one encounters.
Although one may have seen numerous other plays about family life, this play in particular is rather unique, given that a large portion of the action is described through the eyes of the grandmother, who happens to be dead.

The stage selection, the simplicity of the set, the content, and the way the production was created was great. The production is enjoyable, although the plot can be dry at times.

The audience should relate to the story on numerous occasions; everyone has been faced with a difficult and harsh reality in their lives.This play is a must see for anyone who is interested in examining the many obstacles a family can experience while overcoming a loved one’s death.