Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: America the Dangerous

By Ed Malin

Joshua Young, President of The Playwriting Collective, is writer and director of the play Father Daughter as part This Is Not Normal: An Arts and Activism Festival at The Brick Theater.  The play stars John Carhart and Briana Femia.  The play was previously seen last year at Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, another forum for socially conscious plays.   I had the pleasure of seeing this play on Father’s Day, at the end of a week in which, sadly, gun violence sometimes appeared higher in the headlines than the buffoonery of our commander in chief.
The play opens with a phone call, which is a matter of life and death.  A college student daughter is standing on one side of the stage, her hand covering a bleeding wound in her lower abdomen.  Her father stands on the other side, so glad to be speaking with his daughter and trying to be optimistic about getting her to safety. She was eating in the school cafeteria when she felt like she had been punched in the stomach.  She had been shot, and, now that she recollects, so had her nearby friends.  She is calling her father from a quiet closet, where she is taking shelter from the onslaught of the unknown shooters.
Photo courtesy of The Brick
As her father watches on the news, the police have not yet gained access to campus.  There indeed seem to be multiple shooters and bombers trying to kill students and prevent anyone from escaping.  The father talks his daughter through the best ways to keep herself safe, conscious and, hopefully, alive.  While they talk, the daughter asks her father questions that she dared not ask before.  What happened when her father rushed to her mother in the hospital as she lay dying?  Why didn’t they tell their daughter to jump on a plane and rush home?  During the daughter’s childhood, was there something dishonest about the parents’ relationship?  Most haunting is the daughter’s insinuation that her father is lying to her now, just to calm her down.  However, the heightened tension gives the two the chance to get to know each other as adults.

“Nobody likes who they are at 20,” muses the father, “except assholes.”
“Did you?” asks the daughter.
“I managed to be an asshole and still not like myself,” he quips.

I like the way the father takes charge of the situation.  Perhaps he is trying to make up for mistakes made in his marriage.  It’s like bootcamp.  It is nerve-wracking.  There are plenty of reversals.   And the play ends before we know the ending, so I am not going to give more away.
Carhart and Femia convincingly show how a father-daughter relationship survives latent periods and re-activates when called for. This was a tense and well-directed story of what is probably every parent’s worst nightmare.  Still, I understand that over the weekend, a major network is gave airtime to Alex Jones, someone who believes that the Sandy Hook school shooting never happened and that all related media coverage is a conspiracy to limit gun rights.  I am glad we have plays such as Father Daughter to keep our consciences flexed to protect our children.