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‘Lockerbie’ examines grief, love

Play takes place seven years after 1988 plane crash

Sara Blythe Smith, Marianne McLaughlin, Kate Vita and Nina Kelly star in Civic Theatre’s “The Women of Lockerbie.”  (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Sara Blythe Smith, Marianne McLaughlin, Kate Vita and Nina Kelly star in Civic Theatre’s “The Women of Lockerbie.” (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

The place name – Lockerbie, Scotland – conjures up horrific images of wreckage falling from the sky.

Lockerbie was, of course, the site of 1988’s Pan Am 103 tragedy.

However, Deborah Brevoort’s “The Women of Lockerbie” is not about that horrible day. This 2003 off-Broadway play takes place seven years later, and is about catharsis and the healing power of love.

Sara Edlin-Marlowe, who directs the Spokane Civic Theatre’s Firth Chew Studio Theatre production, describes the script as “absolutely beautiful.”

The play follows a grieving American couple who arrive in Lockerbie long after the tragedy, in a futile search for some trace of their son’s remains.

They encounter a group of Lockerbie women who have embarked on what they call the Laundry Project. The women want to retrieve the victims’ clothing from a warehouse, launder it and return it the families.

This is based on a true story; the Laundry Project did indeed exist.

Brevoort decided that the scale of the horror called for a dramatic form as old as theater itself.

“I set out to write the play in the form of the Greek tragedy,” Brevoort wrote in her production notes. “After all, the form of the Greek tragedy was designed to tell these kinds of stories, the horrible stories like Lockerbie, of holocausts, wars, plagues and genocides.

“It was a form designed to handle the big emotions and extreme behaviors that attend these kinds of events by presenting them in a way that the audience can bear.”

Brevoort decided to “stick closely to the conventions used by the Greeks.” So she invented a sort of “Greek chorus,” made up of four Lockerbie women who use choral odes and choral dialogue to tell parts of the story.

The chorus can use poetry and imagery to describe what might be too hard to take otherwise, including “what it’s like to have wreckage falling on your heads,” said Edlin-Marlowe.

New York Times critic Bruce Weber said it was “a sincere attempt to create a modern tragedy in the classical Greek mode.” However, he was not sure the off-Broadway production succeeded, calling it more “grandiose than grand.”

Since then, it has been performed all over the U.S. and around the world – including a production in Lockerbie itself – to critical acclaim.

This short (less than 90 minutes) play will be presented in the round in the Civic’s intimate black-box Studio Theatre.

The cast includes Kate Vita, Kevin Connell, Brandon Montang, Marianne McLaughlin, Susan Creed, Nina Kelly and Sara Blythe Smith

The lobby will feature a special display – a list of all 270 people who died in the tragedy.

Jim Kershner can be reached at (509) 459-5493 or by e-mail at
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