Walking the Tightrope at 24th Street Theatre

British playwright Mark Kenny's ode to love and loss gets a marvelous, magical west coast premiere at the 24th Street Theatre under the inspired direction of Debbie Devine and with an extraordinary cast.

Kenny's play -- which is actually in the form of a lyric poem -- is about a young girl's annual visit to her grandparents's house by the seashore. Esme (Paige Lindsey White) looks forward to her yearly visits and is excited when her grandfather Stan (Mark Bramhall) picks her up at the station. However, she is disappointed that her grandmother is not there and wonders where she is.

Stan can't bear to break the news to Esme that her grandmother has died, and makes up a story that she has joined the circus. Esme is suspicious, but goes along with the tale until the truth of her grandmother's death finally becomes a reality.

Devine sets the production at the British seashore in 1950's Britain and fills the evening with a beautifully delicate balance of period naturalism and magic realism. She adds the brilliant touches of a clown (Tony Duran) and a single piano player (Michael Redfield) who add to the haunting, nostalgic mood of the piece.

The actors are in perfect sync with both Kenny's script and Devine's direction. White is inspired as the little girl, finding the essentials of the child's exuberance and despair, and connecting marvelously with her grandpa. Bramhall is wonderfully understated as her grandfather, probing the deeper elements of pathos without ever becoming sentimental. Duran's clown is a ghostly presence, and he conveys great emotion in his slow, evocative movements. And Redfield's accompaniment hits exactly the right notes for the tone of the piece. This is theater at its best, a wonderful, tear-filled evening for all ages that should not be missed.