Posted by: strugglesome | April 27, 2012

Shot To The Heart: Flashpoint Theatre’ Slip/Shot

Every one in a while fiction mirrors reality so strongly that the two almost seem to be the same thing. And maybe the are, after all, they converge and merge so often in our every day lives that they might as well be one and the same. But surely we have to draw some lines somewhere, this is real and this is fake, this is story and this is fact. Or do we? Can’t we just let them grow together, like Baucis and Philemon, ever intertwined?

Well, in Flashpoint Theatre Company’s painful and potent drama Slip/Shot, a new play by Jacqueline Goldfinger, that’s exactly what seems to be happening.  It would be impossible for an audience not to connect Goldfinger’s disturbing and ultimately hopeful story with current events, though there is no hint of topical on-the-nose-elbow jabbing to be had in this play. Instead, with Rebecca Wright’s sensitive and nuanced direction and a splendid understated cast, we have a historic homily about family, trauma, the reality of things falling apart, and the way we grow and heal once the dust has settled and the sun rises once again. The story is all too familiar to anyone who reads the news or even has a brief understanding of the history of the universe. The setting is a small town in Florida in the 1960’s. Kitty (Rachel Camp) sees her new husband Clem (Kevin Meehan)  and his friend Lukie (Erik Endsley) off for work as the guards of a hospital. Once a wild-child, Kitty finds herself rather bored with her new life as a housewife, but giddy with the surprise she’s about to give her husband (she might not cook, but she does have a bun in the oven). Little does she know that the events of the evening will forever fracture Clem’s ability to be a father, or a spouse. Because in a chance encounter with Monroe (Akeem Davis), a young African-American man giddy from an evening with his own lady-love Phrasie (Tayshe Canales) and the world of possibilities in front of him, Clem accidentally discharges his weapon, effectively ending both lives in the process. Though the local sheriff (an excellent Keith Conallen) assures Clem that this will all blow over, Clem’s own shame and paranoia, mixed in with the revulsion that he will be associated with his violently racist father, imprisons both him and Kitty. Meanwhile, across town, Monroe’s grieving mother Miz Athey (Cathy Simpson) and furious pregnant-out-of-wedlock girlfriend try to move on, together, linked forever by the death of one loved one and the birth of another. The 1960’s may be an extremely popular era these days, but the reality of this play cuts through the nostalgia of flipped hair and circle skirts, and focuses on the humans at the heart of the drama.

The central incident of the play occurs almost as soon as the play begins, breaking Aristotelian rules of rising and falling action and giving us instead a study in mourning, an extended glimpse into life after trauma. Davis’ brief time on stage is potent enough to carry his memory through the story, uniting Canales’ appropriately angry Phrasie and Simpson’s beautifully weary Miz Athey in shared grief and resilience, while meanwhile, on the other side of town, Clem barricades his home and boards up his windows, leaving Kitty alone in a sea of fears and sweepstakes. But while the men of the play might be weak, damaged, and even absent, the women have strength in spades. And it’s watching them harness that strength and decide to move forward, towards the future and the next generation, that is the most triumphant and blissful thing about this play. Yes, it’s filled with darkness and the shadows of hate, but it’s also beautifully nuanced and celebrates the power that love gives us to let go, and move on.

Camp’s Kitty is wonderful, hiding her strength behind a cloud of sexy wiggles and cigarette smoke until, dimming with every move Meehan’s beautifully tortured Clem makes, she finally emerges as the grown up, the mother she needs to be. It’s a shame that Kitty and Simpson’s excellent Miz Athey never get to be in a room together, because lord only knows they would recognize, somewhere deep inside, a fellow survivor. Canales’ Phrasie is, perhaps, a more difficult character to truly like, she’s understandably bitter and prickly, and played with an excellent mix of arrogant youth and real panic.

The two young women are literal mirror images of each other, moving across Caitlin Lainoff’s kitchen set and sitting at opposite ends of the table. Wright’s splendid and gentle direction lets all the actors share the same spaces, just as they share the same stories and the same tragedy, but from different sides of the table. Lainoff’s design limits the space somewhat, providing an odd swampy mossy frame and cramping what is already a small theater, but the world behind the Everglades Proscenium is neatly appropriate and period without being kitch. Thom Weaver’s lighting design and Daniel Perelstein’s sound are both entirely accurate and unobtrusively in service of the play. But it’s Alisa Kleckner’s costumes that really steal the show, indicating the time period, the location and the socio-economic status of each character effortlessly and well. They highlight the prominence of the women in this world and place each one of them in time and give us a window into where each person is in the cycle of their life. Frankly, this play would work in an empty room with a table and two chairs as long as it had this cast, this director, and Kleckner’s costumes.

Those looking for easy answers on “how to solve the problem or racism” or “whose fault is whose” wont find anything of the sort in Goldfinger’s work. Instead, she gives her audience an examination of tragedy as it exists in life, using a painful accident and it’s ramifications to look at humanity, family and the way our experiences inform our entire lives. All of the characters in this world are valid complete human beings, regardless of how they ultimately decide to deal with Monroe’s death, and as the play ends, we are left with a sense of lingering sorrow and that all-pervasive villain hope. False or true, it’s what keeps us going, moving forward, into the future. And we have to believe that that’s better than living in the past. Have you seen the past lately? It’s a mess.

Flashpoint Theatre’s Slip/Shot is playing from now until the 5th of May. Buy tickets here.

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