The Magic Theatre presents…
Carter W. Lewis
Starring Darren Bridgett, Julia Brothers, Marielle Heller
A San Francisco comedian said, “These days kids KILL their parents. When I was a kid, I didn’t know I had that option.”
That remark is uncomfortably true. Today, teen agers not only have that choice, but the internet has made it easy for them to act on it. Youngsters see killing and hear gun shots on television so often that it doesn’t seem shocking to watch a human being get picked off in a drive–by attack. Indeed, watching death is commonplace in movies, on computers and in the headlines. These children think they know all about killing, but in reality seeing is not feeling and watching someone expire has nothing to do with the reality of dying. They have not felt the pain of that bullet, the empty feeling when a loved one is no longer there, the senseless waste of a human life. These days, murder has lost its shock value. It has become an act that takes no more courage than sniffing cocaine, going 100 mph on your motorcycle or running away from home. The sanctity of a human life is gone.
When you are in your teens controlled by others who don’t feel your hurts and don’t care about your dreams, it is so easy to blame someone else for the pimples on your face, the love that isn’t returned, and the exam you couldn’t figure out. What better way to stop the pain that tortures you than by eliminating the one who is causing it? It is that frustration that is explored in the Magic Theatre’s production of EVIE’S WALTZ. “Certainly damage and harm are caused by bad parenting,” says Carter W. Lewis, discussing the meaning of his play. “But I think that good parenting doesn’t necessarily guarantee things. I don’t know if that’s truer now than in the past or whether it’s always been true…… I like to think that this is an unfortunate convergence of a certain set of circumstances and these circumstances are made possible by our American culture.”
This production is masterfully directed by Loretta Greco. The movements are spare and every line is like a bullet that pierces the heart. “What especially excited me dramatically was Carter’s expert investment in exploring the complicated grey zone traversing the family terrain,” Greco says. “He rarely provides the simplicity of black and white answers but rather invokes a myriad of questions that I hope persist long after the curtain falls.”
Indeed this production is a gripping 90 minute emotional rollercoaster. The opening scene is a typical middle class back yard patio with the grill fired up. Clay (Darren Bridgett) is cooking a vegetarian repast and his wife Gloria (Julia Brothers) is having her pre-dinner cocktail. . . . a typical and very ordinary middle class activity. The two are discussing Gloria’s fury and Clay’s shock that their son Danny has been suspended from school for carrying a gun to school. As I heard Gloria excoriate her son and Clay defend him, I was hurled back into the forties when my own mother was discussing my total inadequacy as a functioning human being and my father was promising her that I would “come around.”
In Evie’s Waltz, Julia Brothers IS the furious and disappointed mother who cannot believe that the precious, adorable little boy she held to her breast has turned into an unpredictable, angry animal she doesn’t recognize. I believed her anger and shared her disgust with her son and all he had become. I understood her motivation for every cigarette she smoked, every step she took on that stage because I knew from my own bitter memory that a mother can indeed grow to hate her child, unable to forgive him for growing up into something she didn’t expect. Brother’s performance is a masterpiece on the Magic stage. Darren Bridgett is no less magnificent as the optimistic and pacifying father, the guy who wants to make happy endings and again I heard my own father telling my mother to take it easy, to leave me alone, and to let me be.
But MY mother did not ease off and I could not escape her. I hated her all the more because I was her victim devoured by her inexplicable fury. I wanted to kill her. However, I didn’t have someone to help me find a gun to make that happen and in truth it never occurred to me to murder her. My goal was to get out of her house. In Lewis’s play, Danny has Evie and together they justify their anger and the unfairness of a world deaf to their emotional pain. They feed on each other’s sense of injustice and they make a plan, one that will rid them once and for all of the adults that control them, the ones who won’t let them be happy.
When I left this theatre one member of the audience said, “This didn’t seem true to me. Parents don’t talk that way.”
I wanted to take her hand and say “YOUR parents didn’t talk that way, but mine did.”
And I was not alone. Millions of children are wounded because the adults in their lives cannot come to terms with their own frustrations and blame the weakest, the most vulnerable; the one too powerless to fight back. Our children are our victims no matter how good our intentions, or how true our love for them. The New Yorker has a story by Joan Acocella in its November 17 edition that discussed the variety of ways well meaning parents have destroyed their children’s egos, and their ability to survive their disappointments. She calls it over-parenting and says, “The conservatives are afraid that we’re turning our children into pampered ninnies …the liberals that we’re producing selfish, authoritarian robots. “
She maintains that we give our children an exaggerated sense of entitlement and the belief that the world owes them the life they want. This idea that happiness is an inalienable right underlies Lewis’s script. Several people younger than I who have been brought up in a society that glorifies winning and profit over community and personal growth, didn’t feel the plot was an honest reflection of what can happen. Yet is seems obvious that high-schoolers who are pushed to accomplish what their parents value DO have a disturbing potential to explode. The real world these days endorses power and money above goodness and charity. We use war to eradicate those who disagree with us. If this is the lesson we teach our children, why are we surprised that they would resort to the very solutions we ourselves use when they feel pushed into a corner?
For me, this play was a wake-up call. I thought the direction elevated it into an unforgettable drama and the atmosphere of the production was as mesmerizing as it was horrifying. I walked out of that theatre absorbed in thought.
And that is what good theater is supposed to do, isn’t it? Make you re-evaluate what you thought life was about. And make you wonder…not just about those people on stage but about the validity and sense of purpose in your own life.
IF YOU GO:
Evie’s Waltz continues until October 19, Wednesdays-Saturdays: 8 p.m.; Sundays 2:30 and 7 p.m.
Tickets 415 441 8822 or www.magictheatre.org
Discounts for students, seniors and educators.
About Lynn Ruth
Causes Lynn Ruth Miller Supports
Habitat for Humanity