Death in the Family
by Sharon Pollock
Published by Playwrights Canada Press Toronto
Number of Acts: 2
Length: 110 mins
Total actors required: 6
A prairie gothic mystery revolving around the intertwined lives of two rural families. Three motherless children, Gerald, Renee and Gillie Havard and neighbor Peter Semchuk were childhood playmates; Renee and Pete high school sweethearts; Gerald and Pete best friends, together joining the army during the latter years of World War II. Everything changed however with Gerald s death in Italy and Pete's return with Rose, his English war bride.
The play opens in 1970. Renee Harvard has grown into an eccentric raw-boned woman, fiercely protective of Gillie who is simple and child-like. The two share a dark secret and are isolated from neighbors; Renee viewed as weird, Gillie as crazy. A blizzard forces Pete, Rose, and daughter Anne to seek refuge at the decaying Havard farm. They arrive with a badly beaten young man found near his abandoned car. The stranger believes the Havards hold the answer to a question he must have answered. He insists Gillie, who still lurks outside, has attacked him. The characters, trapped by the storm as well as by a distraught and increasingly violent Gillie, must confront and expose the truth of births, deaths and disappearances if they are to alleviate the pain of guilt and misunderstandings.