RICOCHET: AN AMORALISTS ANTHOLOGY ABOUT SURVIVING AN AMERICAN EPIDEMIC
Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre
A.R.T./New York Theatres
502 West 53rd St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Wednesday - Saturday through May 11, $20-$30, 7:30
The Amoralists, one of the city’s most adventurous and exciting theatrical troupes, concludes its 2018-19 ’Wright Club season with the gripping Entangled. The ’Wright Club program consists of four new plays built around “one unifying event. Three distinct perspectives. No right answers.” The fictional event is a mass shooting in the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History; Entangled is the final installment of “Ricochet: An Amoralists Anthology about Surviving an American Epidemic,” which has previously been explored from different angles in Gabriel Jason Dean’s Triggered at the Cherry Lane Studio in August, directed by Kimille Howard; Charly Evon Simpson’s Stained at New Ohio Theatre in October, directed by Kate Moore Heaney; and James Anthony Tyler’s Armed at Teatro Latea at the Clemente in December, directed by Bianca LaVerne Jones. You do not have to have seen any of those plays, which all ran for three performances, to get caught up in the thrall of Entangled, a stellar collaboration between Simpson and Dean, directed by Moore Heaney, that plays for three weeks, through May 11 at A.R.T./New York Theatres.
In the two-character Entangled, Bradley (Amoralists founding artistic director James Kautz), a white man, is the older brother of the shooter, Little. Greta (Naomi Lorrain), a black woman, is the mother of one of the youngest victims, Astrid. The play unfolds in alternating monologues in which Bradley and Greta speak directly to the audience and dictate emails to each other, sent and unsent, as they search for answers, deal with the traumatic death of a loved one, and try to maintain relationships, although their situations are never made equal. “Dear Greta,” Bradley writes, “Although we’ve never met, we are forever linked by the senseless tragedy my little brother brought into our lives.” Greta, however, feels further violated by this additional unwanted intrusion. Wondering if Little is still connected to Astrid, she writes, “If he is haunting her in the afterlife / If your brother is haunting her in the afterlife / Are you haunting me in this life, Bradley? / Are you?” She later muses, “I wonder a lot about who thinks they must survive the trauma / And who thinks they must cause it in order to survive.” Greta’s dialogue is written by Simpson (Behind the Sheet, Jump), a black woman, and Bradley’s by Dean (Terminus, Qualities of Starlight), a white man. And yes, race does play a part in the proceedings, particularly when it comes to the media. (Dean has probed the aftermath of mass shootings before, including in Our New Town, a musical inspired by both the Newtown massacre and the classic American drama Our Town.)
Moore Heaney directs with a calm hand as the actors take turns center stage on a circular platform or pull up a chair on Andrew Diaz’s spare set, which also features a curved horizontal backdrop onto which Kate Freer projects images of the sky and clouds and the cosmos. The universe plays a central role in the play, from the planetarium where the shooting occurred to the name Astrid, as Simpson and Dean compare the Big Bang that created everything to the scourge of gun violence (perpetrated this time by a man known as Little), which wreaks destruction on individuals and society as a whole. It’s always a pleasure watching Kautz (Nibbler, Utility) onstage; he embodies a kind of everyman persona, and here he represents someone who could be any of us, desperate to find out what went so horribly wrong. Lorrain (Song for a Future Generation, Stained) is much more active and lively as she is suddenly thrust into the role of public figure. “After the first few days, people didn’t stop me in the street / I am not sure if that’s because they didn’t want to say anything to me / Didn’t want to intrude / Or maybe they just weren’t sure,” she says. “Just weren’t sure I was the one they saw on the news / I think it is more likely that they just forgot / Forgot how they knew me.” In today’s day and age, with so many mass shootings in America being detailed in the 24/7 news cycle and then disappearing into the maelstrom, it is much too easy to forget the names of the shooters, the victims, the heroes. But those with families involved are doomed to remember, reliving the horror over and over again.