Playwright Laura Marks restates the obvious—the economic meltdown that began in 2008 severely impacted lives. Any new insights or realistic dramatic interpretations of that time remain as elusive as the child, Bethany, who has been removed from the custody of her struggling mother, Crystal, a member of the sales force at a soon-to-be-closed Saturn car dealership. Everything hinges on Crystal's desperate last attempts to sell a car to an equally desperate, equally phony, middle-aged, unemployed, motivational speaker named Charlie—perfectly played by Richard Ziman. The choices she makes along that path lead to her downfall. Before I got to know her, I went expecting to like Crystal, to sympathize, and I hoped I would see her prevail in the face of terrible odds, but like the play itself—and in spite of the impressive acting of talented Emily Chisholm in the leading role—this protagonist disappoints.
|Darragh Kennan, Emily Chisholm, and Richard Ziman in back|
Photo: Chris Bennion
I guess my own personal opinions predisposed me to have this response. I could not help but think of my own parents and grandparents who weathered a far worse catastrophe, the Great Depression, without moral compromise. In my opinion, the character “Gary” (Darragh Kennan), a homeless man who is already a squatter in the foreclosed house Crystal ends up occupying, probably has more integrity than anyone else, as crazy and unpredictable as he appears to be. He knows exactly where he stands, is guileless, maintains a survivalist’s brand of hope, and displays genuine concern for his “roommate” Crystal and her absent child, even to the point of protectiveness. As for sanity, that is often a matter of perspective.
In contrast to Gary, some other characters react to the recession's impact on their lives by choosing to deceive, exploit, and manipulate. I realize that even the best person can slip into desperation, but I found myself still questioning Crystal’s judgement and behaviors. I felt that I was expected to be sympathetic toward her, but I began liking her less and less. People make good choices and bad choices, but hopefully they make moral choices. There is really no excuse for immoral or stupid ones, no matter how times challenge us.
|Board to the Belly - Emily Chisholm and Darragh Kennan|
Photo: Chris Bennion
In his letter in the program, Director Langs continued with, “I hope the questions raised and the feelings evoked will rattle around in you long after you leave the theatre.” The questions raised—such as whether or not misfortune inevitably corrupts morality—are questions we must answer for ourselves through our own experiences and perceptions of human nature. We certainly get no help from this script. That's okay, but the feelings evoked, still rattling around in me as Langs wished, seem like nothing more than annoying rattles in an old car. They don’t enlighten or enrich my life; they simply indicate that something needs to be fixed.
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