Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Jacksonian

Play #22 (Make-up #4) - The Jacksonian by Beth Henley

When I think of Beth Henley, I think of The Miss Firecracker Contest and Crimes of the Heart - Southern quirkiness with a touch of dark underbelly. But The Jacksonian is pretty much all underbelly. The plot concerns the Perch family - Bill and Susan are in the midst of a trial separation as of May 1964, and their 16-year-old daughter Rosy is feeling caught in the middle and frustrated by the whole experience. During their separation, Bill is staying at the Jacksonian Hotel, where he and the family get to know bartender Fred and waitress Eva perhaps a little too well. The timeline of the play jumps around from various times between May and December of 1964, but primarily we keep returning to the night of December 17, 1964 - which we are told is "the night of the murder." The non-linear narrative fills in blanks bit by bit, painting pictures of past and future crimes that we only come to understand slowly as Rosy - our occasional narrator of sorts - seems to be floating through her memory, sifting out the relevant moments and trying to string them together to make some sort of sense. There is no one I would call particularly likable in this play - all the characters are carrying so much deception and hurt and anger around with themselves, that they can hardly find anything redeeming in themselves - so how can we. It is really just Rosy who is dashed about by all of the events of these few months, and whose fate does not feel like her own.

I really don't want to say much about the actual plot, because the way in which Henley has woven all the little revelations together is really pretty delicious, and I would hate to spoil that for any potential readers or viewers. I love seeing this side of Henley's writing - the structure is unsettling in all the right ways, and as the events unfold, the hurt we experience alongside her characters is profound and all too truthful. There is also a great monologue by Eva for someone of my particular age - though it's so full of old school intolerance, it might be tough to take on. But for the right audition... it could be exactly what's needed.

No comments:

Post a Comment