Hope within the shadows

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Dealing with grief is an extremely difficult topic, one that every person grapples with at some point in their lives.

The latest production from The Edge Theatre takes an in-depth look at three people coming to the end of their lives from terminal illnesses, and how their passing will affect those around them.

“The Shadow Box” premieres April 19 and runs through May 19 at the theater, 1560 Teller St. Shows are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m.

Written by Michael Cristofer, the play premiered in 1977 and won the Tony Award for Best Play and Pulitzer Prize for

Drama.

“It was really edgy for its time, and it remains that way, so we thought it was a perfect fit for us,” said Rick Yaconis, executive producer and artistic director. “It’s a fascinating look at how they — as well as their families — deal with this.”

The story focuses on 24 hours in the lives of Joe, Brian, and Felicity — three terminally ill patients staying in cabins on the grounds of a large hospital.

All three have reached the end of their treatment and have agreed to be part of a psychological project where they have interviews with a psychiatrist while living on the grounds.

All three are facing unique circumstances during this one day.

Joe is part of a blue-collar family from New Jersey, and his wife and son are on the way to visit him for the first time since his treatment began.

Brian is part of a gay couple with his partner Mark, but his ex-wife Beverly is on the way to visit him one more time.

Felicity is an older woman whose daughter, Agnes, is staying with her mother while she drifts further and further from reality.

Haley Johnson, who plays Joe’s wife Maggie, said that the idea of a strong, blue-collar family having to deal with the fragility of the situation is extremely affecting and engaging, since it’s a side that people don’t often see.

“She’s a little quirky and talks really fast, with this frantic energy,” Johnson said. “It’s a way for her to distract herself from what’s happening.”

Johnson also added there are some very funny, awkward scenes, not just in her cabin, but throughout the play.

“There’s a lot of humanity in the writing, and that leads to these scenes that bring a little levity,” she said.

Yaconis is directing the show — his first time directing since 2011s “Some Girl(s)” — and said that it’s been a great opportunity to have a vision for the show and bring it together.

“I’ve had the pleasure of being directed by some great directors here at The Edge and I was able to take some ideas from them,” he said.

“It’s been a great chance to really collaborate with the actors.”

Both Yaconis and Johnson stressed that despite the weighty subject of “The Shadow Box,” it’s not entirely despairing.

“It is a play about death, but it’s focus is more hopeful and inspiring,” Johnson said. “It’s beautifully written so that the hope for the characters really comes through.”

For more information and tickets, call 303-232-0363 or visit www.theeproject.org.