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A CurtainUp Review
The shooting in this production is clearly accidental, occurring so suddenly that the unfortunate perp could have shot at a black or white person, a rabbit, or something moving in the wind. Race had no time to kick in by the time the young black man falls dead.
Here the shooter, Clem (fascinatingly and quirkily played by Kevin Meehan), had been passing time on the night shift practicing his quick draw. To his horror he kills Monroe (Akeem Davis). Although it was unintentional, his fear of reprisals and his fear that he may have inherited traits from his monstrous, racist father haunt him relentlessly and threaten to collapse his marriage. Kitty (Rachel Camp) his pregnant, once bubbly, but now beleaguered wife, becomes a prisoner of his fear in her own home. Lukie (Erik Endsley), Clem’s appealing co-worker pal, has some kind of history with real cute Kitty.
Cathy Simpson, a world-class actress, creates a convincing and profound characterization of Miz Athey, Monroe’s mother. No stranger to the effects of inadvertent violence, Ms. Athey has closed down her heart. And the late Monroe’s pregnant, prickly, and quite intolerant girlfriend, Phrasie (Taysha Canales) stands to lose a scholarship and a promising future.
At the flashpoint of the slip/shot, the unrelated stories of the two families collide. Accidental parallels converge. Yet except for that life-ending and life-changing incident, the family’s stories remain separate.
Director Rebecca Wright and the design and production people attend to the shifting scenes and the gothic gathering storm. A grim little kitchen framed by some sort of burlap-looking proscenium, evokes poverty more than the South. The set is used simultaneously for two kitchen locations and scenes overlap in an interesting way. Solid lighting design supports shifts as characters in one story linger before they leave, while others arrive and inhabit the space. The detritus of each scene is left to accumulate on the stage, although it’s not clear how an accretion of props is meant to enhance the production.
Beyond race issues the story deals with other considerations, like how people are changed by their reactions to their experiences. Liberation emerges from the mix as a significant concern. The hapless shooter, increasingly paranoiac, tries to release himself from the sins of his father, but his journey becomes sidelined as the focus shifts to the three women, who struggle to liberate themselves from their own particular bonds. Kitty needs to escape from a life closed off by her husband’s fear; Phrasie, who craves emancipation from poverty and a sure fate of cleaning other people’s kitchens, needs to emerge from her own rigidity of thought; Miz Athey must break free from long-term grief that has engendered a meanness of spirit, and move on toward a life of optimism and acceptance.
Jacqueline Goldfinger’s writing in Slip/Shot is assured and unhurried, offering heft, a feel for the South, and a good story. As her sheriff (Keith Conallen) says, "Nothin’ folks like better than a juicy story." What’s odd for an emerging playwright, though, is that it’s not only the play that’s set in the early 60s. Her approach to the writing itself feels like something lately unearthed rather than something that belongs to the present time. Race-related problems obviously are still with us, yet much change and attitudinal transformation has occurred in the last fifty years. While a new work might reasonably be expected to bring insights from a new vantage point, Goldfinger strikes a retro blow for freedom.
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