How the Light Gets In Depends on a Sympathetic Heart

Leigh Kennicott Reviews - Theater

Have you ever heard, “Casting is everything?" At Boston Court, the authentic performances mesh to illuminate E.M. Lewis’ new play, How the Light Gets In. "Light" is an apt metaphor that describes Boston Court’s Emilie Pascale’s Beck invisibly light touch as director.


The play examines the toll breast cancer takes on Grace Wheeler (Amy Sloan), an otherwise empowered ‘woman of a certain age’, whose emotional journey succeeds only with the aid of a pair of improbable allies.  The result is a sweet reminder that we are all capable of providing enough light to heal those around us who are suffering.


The character of Grace is aptly named, as she begins the circle of light when she spies Kat (Chelsea Kurtz), a teen camped out beneath the weeping willow in a Japanese Garden where she is docent.  Instead of rousting her out, Grace takes to leaving food for Kat, and, as with any feral cat indeed, coaxes her into friendship. Into the mix appears Haruki (Ryun Yu), a world-renowned architect commissioned to build a simple tea house for the garden.  As Grace’s cancer treatment intensifies, their friendships blossom.

The play could have suffered in the hands of different performers or director. In hands other than playwright E. M. Lewis, it might have become simply a “disease of the week” meller-dramer (please forgive me: I remember those days on TV). Here, though, we don’t feel weighted down by Grace’s fears and apprehension.  As a cancer ‘transcender’ myself, I empathize with the terrible uncertainty that subsequent treatments may create.  This process may wear heavily on our friends, who suffer with us.  In How the Light Gets In, though, Kat’s redemption comes from the light she gives to Grace, while Haruki’s creative block unlocks only when he bends enough to provide light for Grace’s continued healing. Dieterich Gray as the tattooist Tommy Z provides welcome surcease from the sort of sentimental treacle most dramas about disease exhibit.

Part of mitigation against the charge of melodrama can be found in the exquisite production mounted at Boston Court. Primary among all of the concrete features: the delicate use of lighting (designed by Sarah Resch) smoothly transports us from space to space while Tom Ontiveros contributes unobtrusive projections against indications of Tesshi Nakagawa’s tranquil setting and Jack Arky’s background sounds depicting the Japanese Garden. Grace’s costuming (by Ann Closs Farley) contrasts perfectly with Kat’s street urchin look, or Tommy Z’s leather chic.  But the best part of all is the magnificent tattooing provided by Breeana Guidry.  It must be seen up close to be believed!

How the Light Gets In runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m through October 27, 2019. Theatre @ Boston Court is located at 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena 91106. Tickets run from $20 to $39.00.  Phone 626-683-6801 or consult