The Gabriels at PIAF: marathon of tragedy, heartache and humour


A scene from The Gabriels.
A scene from The Gabriels.

FOR non-Donald Trump supporters, New York theatre production The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family might just be the best thing to emerge from the United States 2016 election year.

Written by Tony Award-winning playwright and director Richard Nelson, who wrote the four-play series The Apple Family Plays, this trilogy is an eight-hour (including breaks) viewing marathon at Perth International Arts Festival 2017.

The three plays in The Gabriels cycle – Hungry, What Did You Expect? and Women of a Certain Age – follow the life of the Gabriel family as they prepare three dinners in their Rhinebeck kitchen in upstate New York across eight months.

Hungry is on the night of March 4 (the Friday after Super Tuesday), What Did You Expect? on the night of September 16 (with the election in full swing) and Women of a Certain Age on the evening of Election Day (November 8).

Premiered in real time in New York on the dates the plays are set, The Gabriels is no less relevant to PIAF audiences who now get to view the production in hindsight.

It was a difficult year for the US and the Gabriel family personally, who are dealing with the loss of their husband/son/brother.

These US milestone moments coincide with their timeframe of deeply personal ones – spreading Thomas Gabriel’s ashes, discovering the family’s debt and the one-year anniversary of his death.

The audience is witness to the emotion, thoughts, memories and everyday discussion taking place around the kitchen table as the actors chop, peel, run water at the sink and set the oven timer while cooking.

By the end of play two, instead of feeling weary of the time spent in the theatre you are left waiting in anticipation to see what the final play brings; not ready to leave the tragedy, heartache and humour of the Gabriel family just yet.

This level of commitment to such a lengthy artistic event is usually the playground of music festivals but those who decide to sign up for the theatrical experience are rewarded with exceptional acting, a captivating storyline and a trip to the theatre they will remember long after President Trump leaves the White House.

The Gabriels is showing at Subiaco Arts Centre until February 18.