Friday, May 1, 2015

BROKEN is a Study of Ugly Beauty

On the heels of the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing, BROKEN, a new play by David Meyers, made a poignant but all too brief appearance at Shetler Studio Theatres, NY, NY from April 9th through April 26th, 2015. Quoted here is the synopsis directly from the play's website:

"Kevin McFadden hasn't spoken to anyone since he killed 17 people at a shopping mall three weeks ago. But when a prison doctor takes an unexpected interest in his case, Kevin decides to meet with him - revealing a troubled past that unites them both."

At first glance this reveals subject matter that might be uncomfortable for the average theatergoer. What I discovered was 70 minutes of white knuckle exchanges and surprisingly tender moments not expected from a presumed psychopath's one and only therapy session. This roller coaster ride combined with rich content and Broadway-quality acting produced theater of the highest caliber.

Michael Pemberton (noted for his recurring role as Private Detective Malcolm on the hit series Damages and seen on Broadway in productions including The Farnsworth Invention, I'm Not Rappaport and Hedda Gabler) brought a subtle and refined portrayal to his character Dr. Palmer, the fragile therapist who clearly has a personal agenda in regard to his reluctant ward, Kevin. His acting choices were honed from deep places therapy patients are asked to go in order to make personal progress, but many times are too terrified to explore. Because of this the audience was rewarded with a consistently truthful performance in which a man who is obviously in deep pain is using that pain constructively in hope of healing someone who is beyond help.

David Meyers' portrayal of Kevin McFadden was riveting and color-filled. I felt sympathy for the young man's feelings of rejection which ultimately drove him to commit mass murder. He haltingly offered a window into his younger self, revealing a sensitive man who had been constantly bullied. Yet his explosive reasoning for what he did and placing the blame on others besides himself still led me to conclude that nothing could excuse his actions - leaving the appropriate question, I think, in most people's minds: what drives a person to do such a thing?

Alex Ashrafi's solid performance of Officer Falco effectively provided the tension needed to propel the play forward with well timed and sometimes violent interruptions to the main characters' session. Daisy Walker's direction skillfully kept the reins on this play without overdramatizing the work and allowing the writing to speak for itself through the actors.

I want to see this work performed continuously. It has all the things needed to become a staple work in American theaters due to its relevant material and powerful storytelling. It is also economical for theaters to produce and the length is perfect for a stand-alone production or a pairing with another one act play or another type of art form for a two-part presentation. I write this in the hope that publishers and regional theaters will take note and contact this very talented young actor/playwright. David Meyers has a bright future ahead of him.

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