The Subject Was Roses, Carpe Noctem Productions, at Stage Left Theatre. At a time when technically elaborate spectacles and directors’ heavy-handed concepts are so often the focus, it’s refreshing to see a well-made play finely and simply executed. Frank Gilroy’s 1964 Pulitzer Prize-winning The Subject Was Roses, set in the days when American boys were returning home from World War II, takes a look at the darker side of family life in the States through the relationships between a troubled young soldier, his hot-tempered father, and his regretful mother. The language and manners of the characters clearly represent that time, but the love and anguish in the Cleary household are universal.

Director Nick Bowling treats Gilroy’s script with integrity, and the action unfolds at just the right pace. Joe Damour as the father, Jeanette Wiggins as the mother, and P.J. Powers as the son work well as an ensemble and make their characters sympathetic and believable; Wiggins captures the mother’s turmoil so well that her last scenes are heartbreaking. Jake Outland Kavanagh’s set design nicely evokes a time when mothers made a fortress of their kitchens.

–Gabrielle S. Kaplan