Monday, June 27, 2016

Review: Hoping for the Eleventh Second

By Michael Block

Parked behind a table, sitting anxiously in a chair, Padraic Lillis talks about suicide. He says the things we may not have the courage to say out loud. Through his own experience, Hope You Get to Eleven or What are we going to do about Sally? is a monologue about finding the light through the darkness.
photo by Kevin Cristaldi
Presented by The Farm Theater at the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, Hope You Get to Eleven is an emotionally driven solo piece that discusses things that can be hard to admit. Inspired by his own story, Lillis is not seeking sympathy but rather offer awareness. Lillis smartly doesn't tip toe around the subject. He brings dry humor to balance the gravitas. And there is a hell of a lot of gravitas in this play. The play came to form after his experience directing A Christmas Carol at a college where a girl from the play committed suicide. With the aftermath and his own pains finding unity, Hope You Get to Eleven began. The unique thing about Lillis’ piece is there is no moral to this story. And it’s unfair to try to offer when. Lillis tries to bring awareness to the thought of if you know you’re hurting, ask for help. He drops in the occasional fact and numbers about suicide that hammers in the idea of how dodgy the thought can be. He reminds us that someone else in the room has likely had these thoughts. Or may be having them, word for word, as he says them. And it's true. Believe me, it’s true. With the safe space of a theater, Lillis bravely shares how he found himself having suicidal thoughts despite the positives in his life. A loving relationship. A flourishing career. Opportunities to do what he loves. But when you can’t see the progress, the negative thoughts outweigh the positives. The one statistic that weighs heavy on the production is the one that inspired the title. And it’s something I wish was introduced sooner into the monologue.
From a production point of view, Lillis plays it safe in his script. Rather than reaching for analogies and metaphors, he lays it out there in a colloquial manner. He and director Scott Illingworth approach the text in a way that it seems he is talking to you. Illingworth places the table and chair on a diagonal in order to reach the two seating sections equally. It was a very strong and powerful position for Lillis to be in. For the most part, lighting designer Joe Cabrera left the lights consistent. A nice glow on Lillis. But when he goes into his bit about the bath and going under, Cabrera adds a hint of theatricality. The subtle shift was evocative and taut.
Lillis drops a quote the seemed to resonate the most with me. “Loneliness is exhausting.” Lillis’ story could be your story. It could be my story. The important thing about Hope You Get to Eleven is knowing you’re not alone. There is someone out there with open arms ready to give you a hug. You just have to find them.