When It’s You
Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors
Ana Reeder. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg
Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors
When random mass violence is everyday news, examining the repercussions on those left behind certainly seems timely. However, Courtney Baron's new solo play at the Clurman Theatre, When It's You, approaches the topic but leaves it dramatically unfocused.
Ana Reeder plays Ginnifer, an appealing but lost 37-year old who returned home to Dallas because of family responsibilities. She has been living a life with little satisfaction in St. Louis. She mentions an insensitive boyfriend and the few people who were important to her, her late mother, her semi-estranged brother, and there is Jason.
Jason Hanley, a boy she dated in high school, recently shot 12 people, killing four and himself. Ginnifer is consumed by his bestial action, telling us she was wakened one night by flickering lights and learns this was the time Jason left his house with the shotgun. That must mean something. Or does it?
Her high school friends assume that Ginnifer must have clues pointing to his crime since they once dated although Ginnifer hasn't seen Jason since her mother's funeral a year before. As teenagers in high school, she is not sure how long they dated, maybe six or seven months. They barely reached third base and she tries to recall if she ever really loved Jason and if so, how could she love someone who would do something so vicious?
Reeder is empathetic and nuanced as a Texas gal with a light drawl and a friendly manner. She communicates with the audience as if we're all friends but her meandering slices of memory roam from childhood to St. Louis to Dallas to her dying mother and Patience Bridget, her Cabbage Patch doll, treasured since Ginnifer has no children. Fitfully, however, her thoughts always return to Jason.
Ginnifer does not share honest emotions. She says, "I’m not here to talk about Jason Hanley," yet that is what she just wants to do. She wants to tell us about Jason and how his crime affects her. When Ginnifer determines to change her life late in the show, it does not indicate real mourning, instead feels voyeuristic, even self-serving. "When it’s you that loved someone who did something horrible, it’s your responsibility to hold them in contempt forever."
Steven Kemp designed an empty set with a chair and a box that holds the Patience Bridget doll. Josh Bradford provided lighting effects and projections of high school photos are provided by Justin West. Sound designer Bart Fasbender adds the sounds of thunder and rain.
Ginnifer's skimming introspective search results in a bland play directed by Jonathan Silverstein that moves with slow determination but little flow and no anchor to truth. "I may be alone, but I am not without purpose. I’m going to have direction." She sounds determined but Courtney Baron's play does not make an encouraging case.
When Its You
410-West 42 Street
Previewed: 02/21/17. Opening: 02/28/17. Closing: 04/08/17
Running time: 70 mins. No intermission.
Cast: Anna Reeder
Playwright: Courtney Baron
Director: Jonathan Silverstein
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors
Also can be read on TotalTheater.com