Arts and Entertainment

Watching paint dry (in a good way) at the Jewel Box

Laurel Watt (left) and Ken Jones play an elderly couple at a crossroads in the Jewel Box Theatre production “Painting Churches.” - Courtesy Photo/Richard Thorton  JBT
Laurel Watt (left) and Ken Jones play an elderly couple at a crossroads in the Jewel Box Theatre production “Painting Churches.”
— image credit: Courtesy Photo/Richard Thorton JBT

At first glance, the Jewel Box Theatre’s upcoming production “Painting Churches” casts a curious picture.

The title alone conjures a strange portrait as the subject for a play.

And though painting, pictures, portraits and churches are all involved, it’s not what one might think.

The “Churches” are actually the family in the play — Fanny and Gardner Church, an aging couple (played by Laurel Watt and Ken Jones), and their daughter Mags (played by Kara Quesada), a rising star in the New York art world who’s come home to help her parents move on the condition that they allow her to paint their portrait.

“I went into (this production) originally with this idea that it’s an older couple dealing with difficult times and how their daughter interacts with them. And I thought, ‘that’s not very exciting,’ ” director Larry Blain said. “Then as I got into it, reading it and especially hearing it through the actors, I realized ... .”

Blain, who had directed “Wit” at the Jewel Box a few years back, was asked back by the JBT board to direct “Painting Churches” though he’d never seen or been involved with a production of it before.

There are likely few people who have.

“Painting Churches” was an off-Broadway hit two decades ago, which is said to have catapulted writer Tina Howe into the upper ranks of contemporary playwrights. Her following play, “Coastal Disturbances,” was nominated for a Tony in 1987.

The former, “Churches,” is a broad-sweeping emotional landscape of retention and resolve, dramatically captured in the portrait of this family.

“ ... I realized that what we’re really seeing is two things going on,” Blain continued. “One is Mags’ realization of where her parents are ... and what she sees isn’t this idyllic thing she thought she’d left behind.”

The other, the director said, is the growing tension between the mister and misses as they reach the seeming end of their productive life, and how some of that is resolved through lost memories conjured by their grown daughter.

It’s a real feel-gooder and a seemingly perfect fit for Poulsbo.

'PAINTING CHURCHES' written by Tina Howe and directed by Larry Blain, premieres at 8 p.m. March 28 at the Jewel Box, 225 Iverson St. in Poulsbo, and will run through April 26 with shows at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday — Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. April 6 and 13. Tickets are $14 general, $12 seniors, students and military. Info: www.jewelboxpoulsbo.org or call (360) 779-9688.

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