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‘Nine Night’ Review: A Poignant Exploration of Loss

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Nine Night (★★★☆☆) looks as lived-in as any house you’re likely to see onstage. Clearly, many lives connect under this roof, inside the comfy, middle-class London home of Jamaican matriarch Gloria.The deeply-built set of Gloria’s living room, kitchen, and foyer, designed by Tim Mackabee, is dense with detail and decorated to within an inch of its linoleum-floored life with mismatched furniture, family photos, plants, and knickknacks.It’s over-decorated, for sure, but we can well imagine that the abundance — clutter to some — is exactly as Gloria would have wanted it.

There’s that much personality and history imparted by the space.Among the able cast, a few performances in Round House’s production similarly lean towards over-decoration and loud emphasis, but don’t register that same depth of character.The parade of family members in and out of Gloria’s house over the course of the play are meant to be a loud, sometimes taxing bunch, and the players find a reliable collective comic rhythm.But it’s the calm in the midst of the storm — Gloria’s adult daughter, Lorraine — who draws attention, and who, in Lilian Oben’s galvanizing performance, feels achingly true and knowable.

Oben does more with a glance, pause, or terse “Hmph” than others manage with a lot of hand-waving hamminess.After grandma Gloria expires unseen upstairs in her bed, stoically grief-stricken Lorraine, recently made a grandmother herself, tends to all the necessary arrangements, and stays busy taking care of the house and everyone in it.That includes Lorraine’s bohemian daughter Anita (Kaitlyn Boyer), and Gloria’s dear cousin Maggie (Kim Bey) and Maggie’s husband, Vince (Doug Brown), “Auntie” and “Uncle” to their juniors.

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