Saturday, November 14, 2015

Margin Notes: Aftermath

The cast of this is my (trigger warning). Photo by Bobby Alford.

Seen on: Friday, 11/13/15.
My grade: B-.

Plot and Background
Aftermath is two one acts presented as part of Ivy Theatre Company's 2015 Trellis Project, a page-to-stage partnership with playwrights. this is my (trigger warning), an Ivy ensemble original piece conceived and directed by Audrey Alford, presents the female experience with PTSD through physical and vocal exploration. Reach, by Ryan Sprague, takes place in New Orleans one year after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, to explore the lasting effects on one woman who refuses to leave.

Disclosure, and
What I Knew Beforehand
I've worked with and greatly admire Audrey Alford, the creator of this is my (trigger warning), the first of the two pieces, and I've contributed money to Ivy's fundraising. Beyond that, I knew only that it was an evening of two short pieces.


Although the two pieces are vastly different in tone and content, their themes are (obviously) connected - an exploration of the aftermath of intense trauma - and thus work in conversation with each other. While the language of the first piece is largely breath and movement, those are the healing tools Leila lacks in the second piece. She relies on words - unread letters she faithfully composes daily, a fierce armor against all of Jordan's efforts to reach her - she is frozen, unable to breathe, unable to move from her home except for her daily pilgrimage to visit her comatose husband. What's really remarkable about the conversation of these two pieces, then, is how both resolve - in Reach, Leila begins to heal through her connection with Jordan, with her ability to finally breathe and change; in this is my (trigger warning), the women who have been having their own private crises in isolation, weeping and contorting, find strength and their center by joining in singing, "she was never crazy," and building together a creature that is equal parts silver-armored strength and a finally-chrysalized butterfly. In terms of that conversation, the evening is successful; however, individually, each piece is rather lacking on its own. this is my (trigger warning) is perhaps a bit underbaked - what language there is, is rather sparse and never particularly explicit - while it's clear each woman is dealing with the after-effects of trauma, the nature of the trauma or its lingering savagery of their psyches is never clarified. However, the seeds are there for a longer piece, for something poetic and affirming - it just needs shape. Reach, meanwhile, has definite craft in the structure of its narrative, but it's hindered by somewhat stilted dialogue and a too-repetitive pattern of tactics by its characters.

Both pieces make excellent use of the space - in tim(tw), the windows that back the playing space are uncovered, allowing the occasional passing traffic - both sound and lights - to penetrate our consciousness, the always-threatening outside world lingering outside the cocooned women. Reach, meanwhile, scatters Leila's unfurnished apartment across the space, littered with books and dying plants, and places the door to her apartment - the bridge to an outside she can't bear to see - completely behind the audience, as outside our experience as it is hers.


Running: Now playing at Lucid Body House (Ivy Theatre Company) - Opened: November 5, 2015. Closing: November 21, 2015
Category: two short pieces
Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes, including intermission.

Creative Team

Playwrights: Ivy Theatre Company (this is my (trigger warning)) w/additional collaboration by Diane Chen and Shoshanna Richman; and Ryan Sprague (Reach)
Directors: Audrey Alford (tim(tw)) & Andrew Block (R)
Designers:  Audrey Alford (Costume - tim(tw)), Kitty Mortland (Costume - R), Jorge Olivo (Sound).
Cast: Audrey Alford, Phoebe Allegra, Ciarah Amaani, Alexandra Moro, Jeanne Lauren Smith (tim(tw)); Katie Braden, Christopher Lee (R)

Phoebe Allegra in this is my (trigger warning). Photo by Bobby Alford
*note: no production photos for Reach were available at the time of writing this*