show menu

Review – ‘The Language of Flowers’ at Curtain Call Theatre in Monte Rio

Withered flowers abandoned to decay surround the stage of this elaborate Gothic melodrama. Two sisters are trapped in a pseudo-Victorian world by the memory of a twisted, overbearing father, and cope by retreating into labyrinthine fantasies. The warped sanctuary is shattered when an escaped convict arrives, violently forcing the sisters to examine reality and break free of their self-imposed prisons.

Gavin Kayner, the playwright, was inspired by Emily Dickinson’s beautiful, morbid poetry, and stories of women who correspond with death row inmates. The character Emma finds a way out of her seclusion by writing sensual, almost pornographic verse to the convicted murderer Walter, never dreaming that he would arrive on her doorstep demanding access. Named for Walt Whitman, the uncomfortably savage convict flickers between the hardened façade he has taken on for survival, and remnants of the man he was—a brilliant, well-read intellectual.

Leaping across furniture with acrobatic enthusiasm, Jake Hamlin’s Walter is terrifying and complex, uncovering delicate, nuanced philosophy while brandishing a knife from the kitchen. Irreparably damaged from childhood trauma, Maria (Jamie Colleran) is unfazed by his threats, taking a practical view of the situation with chilly disgust at his behavior. “We have a right to be safe” she insists, staring him down with unflinching judgement.

Botany is a constant symbol throughout the embroidery of Kayner’s embellished language, describing the situation as rotting rose petals disintegrating on their stems, and the haunted Emma as a pure snowdrop ormonotropa uniflora, the parasitic corpse plant. Elaine Kozlowski brings Emma to life as a terrified woman yearning to blossom, yet hiding from the sunlight, content to stay locked in a room with her sister, wary of interruption.

‘The Language of Flowers’ is an eccentric evening of profound ideas through a macabre story of passion and revenge. The decomposing garden parallels the women who tend it, and Michael Tabib’s attentive direction brings out elements of dark humor. He worked with Hamlin on the set design, with a stained refrigerator, smoke damaged walls, and well-worn furnishings. This odd, yet captivating play will leave you with thought-provoking questions after the curtain has gone down.

The Language of Flowers

Presented by Curtain Call Theatre through March 24, 2018 Fri/Sat at 8:00pm, Sun at 2:00pm

Russian River Hall, 20347 Highway 116, Monte Rio 95462 (707) 524-8739

Photos by Bill Young and Chris Reid

Author Website -

We've moved our commenting system to Disqus, a widely used community engagement tool that you may already be using on other websites. If you're a registered Disqus user, your account will work on the Gazette as well. If you'd like to sign up to comment, visit
Show Comment