Monday, April 23, 2018

Theatre Review: "What Screams I Hear Are Mine"

This past weekend, I saw a play at Boston University that took me way out of my comfort zone, something I gather playwright Annalise Cain would be quite happy to hear.

What Screams I Hear Are Mine tackles rape, racism, suicide, self-harm, sexism, and, oh yeah, a blood-stained diary that possesses anyone who opens it. I could have gone over to the Boston Opera House and caught On Your Feet, but no. I attended this play you've never heard of (until now), and no offense to Gloria Estefan, but I'm really glad I saw this instead.

[Full disclosure (take note, Sean Hannity): I'm friends with someone in the cast.]

I left the theatre with as many questions as I did opinions, but every great show I've ever seen in New York, Boston, London, or on tour across the United States has done exactly this, and it's a true testament to the amazing work of the playwright that she left me wanting so much more.

The story begins in a young girl's bedroom, and we see right away how she's haunted by the demons of her past and present, as evidenced by the other five cast members watching over her in her bed. This little move was so simple yet so effective, highlighting not just the emotional state of the protagonist, but also showing the audience what other faces they'd soon be seeing throughout the 90-minute show.

The players themselves (Lily Hargis, Keaton Brower, Caitlin Fischer, Tatiana Chavez, Sean Perreira, and Seth Hill) move in and out of the set like ghosts at both the start and end of the play, seeming to signify the energies they bring to the story, as well as indirectly to the young girl's addled brain. Highest praise to Director Jessica Scout Malone for all her work throughout. Though as an outsider I don't know all the choices she must have made, I could tell from the staging, timing, and acting that she was clearly a powerful force from the very beginning.

So what exactly makes this show work so well, despite the heavy subject matter? It all comes down to the matter-of-fact acting by its lead, Lily Hargis. You cannot hope to weather the winds and storms of such material without putting your full trust in the captain steering the vessel, and for an hour and a half, Lily Hargis as Dana did exactly that. Even when we weren't sure what was true and what was not, we put our trust in the captain to show us the way, through Dana's flawed but dynamic vision.

Brava to playwright Annalise Cain for such perfect words, and brava again to director Jessica Stout Malone for crafting the message beautifully for the stage, but Lily Hargis as Dana truly was a revelation. She needed to be, in turns, strange and angry and funny and thoughtful and confused and fierce throughout the show, and she succeeded over and over again triumphantly.

Though Lily's role was so central to the story, I must heap all deserved praise on the incredible work by the rest of the cast, too, whose actions and reactions brought this unique story to life with equal parts humor, sincerity, and uncomfortably perfect tension.

Keaton Brower as Nils was tasked with one of the greatest challenges any actor has to face: a multifaceted role with so much complexity, you cannot help but feel the conflict in your bones. Is he good or isn't he? Is he friendly and kind and sweet, or is he hiding something? Does he know what really happened? Is he a victim himself? Is he protecting someone? For an hour and a half, I had absolutely no idea, which says so much about Keaton's brilliant performance. He was a pulsing, kinetic light I couldn't quite figure out, and I loved the confusion he brought to the role.

Caitlin Fischer played Dana's older sister turned reluctant surrogate mother, and she was able to fill the divide between the children and the adults in the play seamlessly. We trusted her implicitly as the sane adult in Dana's life, but also sympathized with her as the carefree young woman she'd much rather be. I was really impressed with Caitlin's strength in this complex role, as she carried both roles within the role with complete confidence, as if she really was living the character's life.

Tatiana Chavez was awesome. She whips into the story as a brave young girl ready to take on the world and all its demons, even to the point of helping Dana with her own dark thoughts and issues, but she proves she can be strong and courageous against even her friends when the going gets tough. Tatiana is a fantastic actor with confidence coming out her ears, and anytime I saw her take the stage, I knew she would move her character's story, and the overall plot, full steam ahead.

Sean Perreira is proof there are no small roles. When I think about the show two days out, and reflect on the various storylines, I realize Sean was not on as much as some of the others, but when he was? Wow. This is an actor who could easily headline another production, and yet he put himself in this role 100%, leading the way with his steady words and movements. He squeezed out every ounce of charm and adolescence in his role, displayed it for us to see, and swam through it all beautifully.

Seth Hill was wonderful. He didn't have a ton of lines, but his time on and off stage was so crucial to the plot. I loved watching him as a romantic love interest as much as I enjoyed seeing him explode at the accusations railed against him. In a cast filled with talent, Seth stood tall, not based on his stature alone, but because of his inherent blessings as an actor. I was floored by his ability to play such different emotions, sometimes one after the other, over the course of this remarkable play.

After seeing What Screams I Hear Are Mine, my brain was still racing. I had so many questions, but I honestly was grateful they were left so gloriously unanswered by the time it ended.

A great play is not about telling the audience what to think, nor even about supplying them with every fact they need to form a particular opinion. A great play plays. It plays with words and actions and thoughts and feelings. It plays with the hearts and minds of the players and the audience alike. It plays and it plays, and it plays and it plays, and the song that is sung is never meant to end. Annalise Cain wrote a play. And it plays on, and will surely play on, forever.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

My Life As It Stands

I haven't posted to this blog in a long, long time, and though I've written a shitload of other material since then (books, poems, other blogs, short stories), this little space-o-mine has sat neglected for almost three years. So here's how my life stands as of Thursday, August 3, 2017.

Health: My health is better than ever. Though I've weighed less than I do now (not including my stint as a toddler), it's the first time in my life I've ever suffered through the kind of sustained diet and exercise plan I'm on now. My blood pressure has gone from very high to perfectly normal, my cholesterol has gone from dangerously high to only slightly elevated, I've lost somewhere north of 14 pounds so far, and my Fitbit (thanks, Mike!) has kept me on track to reach or exceed my steps goal for each day.

Home Life: Andy and I recently began our 9th year as homeowners, and while our list of things to do seems to be forever growing, we're both generally very happy with our house and property. Andy's been absolutely driven lately to re-grow the grass on our front lawn, and his efforts are definitely paying off. We recently purchased a new vacuum cleaner, as the one I bought from Target eight years ago never really worked. It took us all eight years to fully admit this, but at least now we have a new one. (We'll un-box it sometime in the next two years.)

Work: All's well at my job. No six-figure salary to speak of, but I love working there, and I'm forever grateful for the free gym and close proximity to my house!

Writing: After writing and publishing five books nonstop since 2013, I took the first seven months of this year off to completely rewrite and re-format my first book from top to bottom. While I kept 75% of the copy the same, I don't think a single line went untouched in one way or another. I commissioned a new cover, added new copy, cleaned up old copy, and just took the time to overhaul the whole damn book in every way possible. It desperately needed a refreshed, improved version of itself, and now, I'm pleased to say, that new edition is live on Amazon.

Vacations, Big and Small: I have four big trips still ahead of me this year: Maryland, Vermont, Florida, and North Carolina. Maryland will just be a weekend trip to visit a close friend and her family, Vermont will be my usual week away in the mountains to fish, read, write, and explore, and North Carolina will be a long weekend away for Thanksgiving, to visit with Andy's parents, aunt, and uncle. Florida, however? Well, that's my big vacation for this year, and it'll be a whole week away in a special land known as The Magic Kingdom. I haven't even been back to the state of Florida in 30 years, so I'm really looking forward to a jam-packed week of adventures with Andy and a few close friends.

ROAR (Random Other Artful Rants):

I need a new mattress. My current one is literally hurting me on a daily basis. While the springs have yet to break loose from their prison down below, they're threatening to do so. It's a bumpy, brutal night of unrest each and every night, and I hate it.

2) Every time Andy hears the words "President Trump", his face does this weird collapse maneuver, and he goes from happy and peaceful to shocked and disillusioned in half a second flat. And while I agree with him 100% politically, his facial mechanisms do at least make me smile.

3) My Aunt Jane isn't doing well. We don't talk about it publicly too much, and even mentioning it here gave me pause, but it's just very sad. The woman turns 85 this month, so in many ways, she's blessed. We just wish her dementia wasn't so much of a constant. Her lucid moments are less and less frequent all the time. Please keep her in your prayers.

4) Andy's mom isn't doing so well either. She falls a lot, and she fell again this week. Andy showed me a new picture of her last night that his dad took. She had to have stitches put in around her eye after her most recent fall. I swear to God, the woman was an unstoppable force just a few years ago, but now it's as if she's having trouble all the time.

5) I have a half day at work tomorrow, and I'm off on Monday, so I'm looking forward to a lot of relaxation this weekend. That's more of a rave than a rant, but whatever.

And that's it! If you can, and I know you can, please LIKE my public Facebook page for my writing at this link. I don't care if you end up hiding all the notifications you get from me there, rare though they are, but please just LIKE the page to support me. Many thanks!

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Have a good day!


Friday, August 15, 2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Idea for a new blog

While I should be blogging more anyway, I thought of a new blog idea, and wanted to see what you think. 

On May 1st, 2014, I'll be turning 39 years old, and beginning my 40th year of life on Earth.  Yes, I know.  I know I look 26, and it's very sweet of you to be so shocked, but hear me out please.

If I start this new blog, My 40th Year (or something like that), I'd be posting every day. 

Would you be interested in this?  Semi-interested?  Mildly curious? 

Please let me know.  Thank you!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Book 2 progress

Book in progress!

First 16 pages written and I'm really loving where it's going!

6254 / 75000 words. 8% done!

Book 1 already published on Amazon and many other locations around the world: