Apples in Winter Erases Theater and Creates a Reality at Gremlin Theatre

Production Photo

Angela Timberman, her performance as Miriam is like a masterclass in acting.

A one handed play requires the very best performer to hold an audience’s attention for 90 minutes on their own. Gremlin Theatre is apparently aware of this and thus cast Angela Timberman who not only keeps our attention but keeps us utterly and completely enthralled. Apples in Winter by Jennifer Fawcett tells the story of Miriam who spends her time upon the stage making an apple pie. While preparing and baking the pie in full view of the audience she slowly reveals why she is making the pie. A slice of her apple pie is what her son has requested for his last meal before he is executed for a crime he committed 20 years ago. He was a drug addict, that isn’t an excuse for his actions, this story isn’t about him, it’s about Miriam. He has been incarcerated for 20 years for a crime he committed, what the play shows us is that his mother was essentially serving this sentence with him. It’s one of a parent’s worst nightmares, what do you do when your child has done something that many find unforgivable. We know how to grieve for the families of the victims, but how do we treat the family of the one who has killed someone else’s children? Fawcett’s play builds slowly and steadily from Miriam speaking to us about making pies to slowly revealing the details of where she is and why. It has been twenty years of routines and isolation and as her son approaches the end of his time, she is faced with losing her routines, and the toll his crimes have taken upon her. 

Back to Angela Timberman, her performance as Miriam is like a masterclass in acting. Emotionally and technically flawless. There is a moment towards the end when Timberman feels sick and needs to sit down, but there are no chairs and so she finds herself on the floor. Let me be clear, I have seen Timberman perform multiple times, I know her on sight, and I know her to be an accomplished actor. In that moment when she sinks to the floor, I had to actually restrain myself from going to her and putting my arms around her. I wasn’t seeing Angela Timberman anymore, I was seeing Miriam. She is going through all the stages of someone who has loved someone with addiction issues goes through. She was trying to be the caregiver, she was blaming herself, and ultimately she was angry about the lies and deceit and pain she had been put through. And in that moment I wanted to go to her and tell her it wasn’t her fault and hold her for a moment, so she had a minute when she didn’t feel like she had to hold up the world on her own. The kicker is that on top of giving such a convincing and emotional performance, she made a pie, without a recipe! I can’t make a dish I’ve made dozens of times without referring to the recipe a couple of times, let alone monologue a script and give a performance so good that you make an experienced theatergoer forget they are in a theater watching a performance. 

The production is well directed by Brian Balcom whose staging allows us to slowly get absorbed into the action, which is small and contained drawing us in. Later moments of explosive emotion are all the more powerful because we were initially drawn into the quiet matter of fact manner of the pie making. The set and lighting design by Carl Schoenborn looks like an institutional kitchen and it is lit that way which really help to remove any sense of theatricality and achieve a sense of realism, that causes reviewers to momentarily forget they are part of an audience. As do the costume and props designed by Sarah Bauer, who choses Timberman’s costume such that we immediately feel we know her type, she is every middle aged mother or young grandmother. Which is a reminder that these horrible things can happen to anyone, anyones child can become an addict. It also helps us to put ourselves in her place and empathize with the impossibility of her position. I also want to mention the sound design by Montana Johnson, which is minimal, but plays a very important role when it comes to Miriam’s recounting of the night her son committed the crime for which he has been condemned. It’s handled extremely effectively signifying the way the sound of rain plays a particularly vivid role in Miriam’s memory of the night, almost the way a smell will sometimes bring back a certain memory.

Apples in Winter runs through April 7th at the Gremlin Theater in St. Paul. For more information and to purchase tickets go to

Angela Timberman Photo by Alyssa Kristine Photography

Tired of missing reviews from The Stages of MN? Do you find yourself left out when all your friends are talking about that great new play that you didn’t even know about? Never fear that never has to happen again. Now you too can subscribe and have every post from The Stages of MN sent directly to your email box. No more hoping the algorithm works in your favor and you actually see a post on facebook or Instagram. No relying on so-called friends to tip you to the best shows in town. To subscribe on your computer: from the home page on the right, enter your email address and click subscribe. On your mobile device scroll to the bottom of the page and do the same. You can also follow me on Facebook, @thestagesofmn click follow and on Instagram thestagesofmn. You can also read some of my reviews syndicated on the MN Playlist website from time to time.

But that’s not all! Think I may have steered you wrong on a show? Well, I am also a member of the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers (TCTB), where you can read roundups of shows by m’colleagues and I when you follow us on facebook @TwinCitiesTheaterBloggers. We also produce the podcast Twin Cities Theater Chat!! which you can access through this link or wherever you enjoy podcasts . Now you too can be in the know about all the fabulous theater happening in and around the Twin Cities.

Headshot of Rob Dunkelberger
Rob Dunkelberger

Rob is a member of the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers and their podcast Twin Cities Theater Chat as well as a syndicating contributor to Minnesota Playlist. Read all his content