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Complex 'Roses' holds up after many blooms

Oct 24 2004
Mary Damiano | Sun-Sentinel

Everyone knows a couple like John and Nettie Cleary. Married for decades, it's a mystery what brought them together, what keeps them together and how two people so far apart could have ever been close. The Cleary marriage is the centerpiece of Frank D. Gilroy's 1964 play The Subject Was Roses, currently receiving a handsome production at Palm Beach Dramaworks. James Rutledge and Cary Barker give standout performances as John and Nettie Cleary, illustrating the pain of two people trapped in a soured marriage. As Timmy, Zolan Henderson provides some comic relief as well as a counterpoint to John and Nettie's dilemma...Where John and Nettie see hopelessness, Timmy sees hope, and Henderson plays his part with youthful fervor. The design elements are rich and detailed. Michael Amico's set is appropriate for the 1940s and conveys the claustrophobic family dynamic, Suzanne M. Jones' lighting is rich and atmospheric, and Erin Amico's costumes conjure the era. Palm Beach Dramaworks' decision to produce The Subject Was Roses, which won the Tony for best play as well as the Pulitzer Prize for drama, fits in with their mission to revive classic plays for new audiences. Gilroy's drama has a timeless quality that successfully walks a tightrope between the nostalgic and the contemporary, and will surely bring the sweet smell of success to the West Palm Beach theater.