TRIGGER WARNING- VIOLENT TRAUMA

ALSO SPOILERS – THIS IS A PLAY ABOUT A MYSTERY!

 

The Take-Away 

  • Beautiful design elements

  • Riveting production

  • Dramaturgical inconsistencies

  • A strong need for a content warning!

 

In Our Pockets

Sarah Grimke

I’ve got a lot in my pockets as a sexual assault survivor.

Linor:

In my pockets was a great deal of “fucked up” family dynamics. Certainly nothing to the dramatic extent of this family, but definitely being the older “capable” sister has left me feeling some kind of way about this play!

 

The Design

Linor

The set was immaculately designed.

Sarah Grimke

It’s a kitchen sink drama and just the one setting. I felt like Scenic Designer Meghan Jones gave us a lot of information about the age and class of the family with this set. Avista Custom Theatricals nailed the props. It really felt like a great home.

Linor

Really specific and beautiful, yes. We learned so much about everyone just by watching how they interacted with the space, which I loved about this play.

Sarah Grimke

I knew the family didn’t have a ton of money because the laundry was visible in the living room, for instance. And furniture didn’t match. Just a solid working class home. But obviously well loved and taken care of. Lots of color.

Linor

Oh interesting – I hadn’t drawn that conclusion about the laundry, because I’m used to laundry units being in visible places outside of the States.

Sarah Grimke

Even if we don’t concur on that detail- there are so many others that indicated who we are with in this play.

Linor

I want to talk about sound: it grew on me, but I really didn’t like it at first. It felt quite messy and lazy to me, mostly because I heard so much background noise every time the theme played.

Sarah Grimke

The production let us live in this really natural environment which relaxes you a bit. Sound was the only exception, and it did feel out of place

Linor

By the end, the background noise in the design felt like the sound the house was making. Like the house had become a character in the play.

Sarah Grimke

Oh I like that interpretation, but I definitely didn’t think about it until you said it. I mostly hated that most sound we got was used as a patch over some INCREDIBLY LONG SCENE CHANGES that really stopped the action in a show that otherwise clipped along really well. These changes seemed fully director chosen. I could tell that there were easier ways to do the change. It just really threw me off and it was extra noticeable because everything else really worked for me and felt immersive.

Linor

Oh interesting, that wasn’t my experience at all. Because each scene ended with such a weighty one-liner, I didn’t feel like the sound was masking a long change, it felt like it was asking me to really contemplate where we were headed.

Sarah Grimke

The only time I was really thinking about my watch was when the scene changes. That being said- I was at least partially annoyed because I was invested and wanted it to tell me more

Sarah Grimke

Lighting by Andrew Cowles really felt natural except for the moments where it really needed to highlight something unnatural.

Linor

Right, which I LOVED. When moments suddenly turned pink or green, I was enthralled.

Sarah Grimke

Exactly! Andrew Cowles needs to get more design work. This was another really beautiful design for a company that I know doesn’t have crazy resources, and I wish I could see his work with a company that has the technology to really let him dream. I’m always really impressed by his ability to switch between natural and supernatural lighting and to work with limited resources and/or difficult sets.

Linor

Yeah, the lighting in the final moment was HAUNTING. Literally. Ha. But having just Nancy’s face illuminated and the rest of the house plunged in dark actually made me lean back in my chair. Light is such a beautiful tool. The play went from discomfiting to terrifying with the lighting!

 

Sarah Grimke

I should point out that there were multiple moments in this play where I heard the audience GASP. People were invested!

Linor

Yes!! Or I heard audience members speculating to each other in whispers as to what was going on. It was really a captivating production, I have to say.

Sarah Grimke

I love a lean-forward play. I really wanted to know what was going to happen. That’s pretty rare for me, and I really appreciated the experience.

 

Performances

 

Linor

This is a Nancy Boykin show through and through. I think she’s amazing. Andrew Criss as the father was subtle but totally accessible. I also appreciated Liam Mulshine (Dennis) and his portrayal of the early boyfriend. 

Sarah Grimke

There were a couple of strange movement choices in the way the characters interacted that I think the director could have solved with different blocking, but I won’t lay that on any actor.

I also thought after everything was over that Dennis’ character could have been cut. He was an exposition device through and through, though a really well acted one. I think there’s a better version of this script where you get this info without that extra storyline.

Linor

I agree. Honestly my two biggest problems with this play were in the script and the accents!

Sarah Grimke

They need to invest in a dialect coach. One isn’t credited. 

Linor

And accents are such a petty thing to pick on, but I had a hard time listening to them in this play, only because their accents actually took me out of the experience. I kept forgetting they were in Ireland. It all felt so American to me, honestly

 

Direction

Linor

f there was any problem I had with the direction, it was in lifting up the dramaturgical questions of this play in a more graceful way than the play does for me. Essentially I’m asking the director to rise above the problems of the play, which is hard, I think, and also slightly unfair, but is honestly the director’s job, so maybe not.

Sarah Grimke

I agree wholeheartedly. Ultimately, I know Tom Reing picked this play and directed it, so I wanted more investment from him than I feel like we received. I wanted to know his answer for ‘Why This Play? Why Now?’

I thought there were some really strange blocking choices that the actors worked through but that didn’t aid them, and I felt like there were some missed opportunities for stage pictures, but I can’t say they didn’t get me invested and interested. 

The Script

Linor

I think I can understand what the playwright was trying to do with these expositional characters like Dennis and Gary – scaffolding our understanding of what this play is about until we finally get it at the very last moment. But I felt like what ended up happening by having these large moments with two characters that were kind of inconsequential to the actual meat of the play was that there were Two themes running through– toxic masculinity and mental illness and its stigma in Ireland. I’m very connected to those ideas, but not in a way that was strong or sharp in this play.

Sarah Grimke

I felt like the main theme was how families deal with trauma.  I was pretty mad that they focused on toxic masculinity in the dramaturgical materials instead of warning us in any way that this story concerns the fallout from domestic violence and rape. I could have used a heads up. And there’s a way to do it that wouldn’t ruin the twists.

 

Linor:

My understanding of the play was definitely colored by the dramaturgy I looked at in the lobby. The reason I think that toxic masculinity was a very conscious theme for the playwright was because I know of no other reason why Gary is in this play. Like literally no other reason but to force Adele and her father to have a conversation about masculinity that led us to question what actually happened with Jonathan.

Sarah Grimke

I didn’t look until after, and it felt really insulting to center only men in what I had just watched. It highlighted my feeling that this was a play about things that happen to women, and not a play about how men do things to women.

Linor

I don’t know if pointing out toxic masculinity is ignoring women – I mean, after all, wom*n are the ones who bear the brunt of it so often. But I do think we spend so much time thinking about the men in this world that we forget how incredible the two female characters are. Adele was totally straightforward and smart and not afraid to show sensitivity, but also stand up for herself! And had integrity! I so loved that. I felt like I was watching a smart romantic lead onstage for once.

Sarah Grimke

Yes! And they deserved some consideration, which for me was lacking in the dramaturgy materials. I did like Adele as a character. For all the reasons you just said. Taking it for herself!

Linor

Understood. Yeah, and then, by the end of the play, you realize that this is really a play about how incredible this mother is. Which is also part of my problem with the script – we spend so much time trying to figure out what the mystery is we forget whose story it is. And I wish I could have been digging into the mystery but also not be so surprised when I found out I was watching a different play than I thought.

Sarah Grimke

I think that’s exactly what I’ve been feeling. For me- the focus was on what happened to the brother but it was really a play about what happened to Mom. And Dad. And I wish that conflict scene where Adele learns more would have had a line or moment indicating that realization

 

Linor

I agree. I also feel like there’s a version of this play where Dennis and Gary are actually serviceable and don’t feel like throwaway red herring characters. What a waste of characters!

Sarah Grimke

Right! They were interesting layers but not really useful in this play.

 

Linor

Yeah, and so that’s why I drew so much messaging about toxic masculinity from the play. Because essentially what they did was give two examples of how these women handle masculinity. 

 

Accountability

Sarah Grimke

I’m glad this play happened, even though there are ways that I think it was mishandled. These are the right stories but the wrong questions. Obviously, it was a super white cast, and it didn’t have to be. You could have had any number of combinations of people up there.

Linor

I agree. We trick ourselves into thinking that Ireland is an all-white place, but it is not. I also think that this is the right story, wrong questions, but I don’t think the play was mishandled. I guess I think the wrong questions stem from the play itself rather than this particular production.

Sarah Grimke

I think their dramaturg and the company could have had a content warning and some expanded questions addressed. They didn’t look deep enough. The artistic elements of the play were strong, but context is important.

 

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