The Shadow Box, Shining Through Productions, at the Heartland Studio Theater. Twenty-five years have not dulled the intensity of Michael Cristofer’s Tony- and Pulitzer-winning drama. In adjoining cabins on the grounds of a home for the terminally ill, three families confront or avoid the deaths of loved ones. All of the grief stages–denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance–get a piece of the limelight.

This is very much an actors’ play, critically dependent on sensitivity and subtlety. Director Michael Ryczek has calibrated his production precisely for the Heartland stage–a tiny box even with the walls and floor sponged green to create the illusion of open space. This intimate arena allows faces to reveal a thousand times more than we could hear in words. Ryczek has also helped his cast find their characters’ distinct rhythms–incessant chattering and rationalization from the very cerebral Brian (Andrew Kottler); singsong longing from old, old Felicity (Betty Scott Smith), who hopes for a visit from a daughter long dead; and deep-throated undulation from oversexed Beverly (Georg Coleman–perfectly cast, but a little too quick with her retorts to sound natural). Also noteworthy: although the members of different families don’t interact directly, Ryczek creates moments of connection by keeping characters from different story lines onstage together and allowing them to react to a shout or crash from another cabin, quietly letting us know that they–and we–all participate in the same tale.