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Jack Was Kind

Writer/narrator Tracy Thorne
My reservation to watch Theater For One's Live Zoomed world premiere of Tracy Thorne's Jack Was Kind was for Friday September 18th at 8pm. As has been the case with previous plays written especially for onscreen viewing, booking a seat for a specific time and date did make me feel just a little as if I was sharing the experience with other theatergoers.

Nevertheless, there I was set to watch Thorne's play at home, sitting in front of my computer, and Thorne would be narrating her story from her home. As for the play's director, Nicholas A. Cotz, his direction too was remote.

What I didn't expect was that an actual news event would jolt me out of my chair. Undoubtedly neither did Thorne expect that the second day of her play's run would coincide with the heartbreaking news of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg's death.

With Director Cotz delaying the about-to-begin Friday night performance of Jack Was Kind for a moment of silence to honor Judge Ginsberg's memory, the actual news event Thorne used as the foundation stone for her imagined interpretation of its back story became eerily real.

That now super-relevant plot triggering event was the contentious Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination hearing. For sure, a hearing for Ginsberg's replacement, especially if held before the election, will ratchet up the issue Thorne explores: The DNA that makes many Americans privileged and powerful — and complicit in the inequalities that have become ever more deeply embedded in the current political landscape.

Thorne began her career as an actress but has followed in her mother Joan Vail Thorne's footsteps. (Has it really been twenty years since I reviewed the senior Thorne's very fine The Exact Center of the Universe)? Her acting background is put to good use as the need to perform this very personal mea culpa story without moving around the room in her home that serves as the set is not easy. Even devotees of the solo format tend to expect a monologue to allow for more dynamic physcality, and often segues into other characters.

But Ms. Thorne has stuck with the single, constantly seated character who embodies her theme of white, privileged support of a less and less solid land of opportunity for all. That character is a woman named Mary who's been married to the titular Jack for twenty-six years. Like Brett Kavanaugh, he's a successful lawyer and has also been accused of having once sexually assaulted a woman The reason Thorne's Mary remains seated throughout the 70 minutes is that everything she says is in response to her nineteen-year-old daughter's accusatory "How could you just sit there, Mom?"

The daughter apparently believes that her father did assault the woman who spoke out against him but to no avail. She feels her mother was complicit by not speaking out to express her sympathy for that woman's pain. And so Mary defends her standing by Jack with anecdote after anecdote to illustrate that Jack was indeed true to the title: kind. In short, like America, this marriage was full of things to treasure. However, given the state of current affairs, the unkind, unfair actions of the privileged and powerful are disillusioning young people like Mary's daughter and probably generations to come.

This confessional and timely play is well suited to the solo format . However, the narrative's requirement for the soloist to be not just locked down in her home by the pandemic, but locked into her seat by her play didn't do much to change my own preference for a more populated stage.

It would have been nice if Thorne could have given her "set" more of the look of privileged woman's homes — perhaps a wall of family pictures instead of what looks like a large microwave oven, and some plush furniture close by. That said, a bravo is in order for the way she's managed to explore a major issue through an intimate lens.

This All For One Theater world premiere can be seen Wednesdays to Saturdays. through October 10th. Tickets are $5 to $50. For details see https://www.afo.nyc/.

October 13th update: 2 additional performances announced for October 16 and 17th

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