Entangled at Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre, A.R.T./New York Theatres

James Kautz and Naomi Lorrain. Photo Credit: Travis Emery Hackett

ENTANGLED is the most relevant work you can witness in the 21st century. It deposits you into the epicenter of the hurricane, the whirlwind, the tsunami and keeps you churning as all around you the fabric of the world tears apart. It is an ode to humanity and it’s porcelain fragility. Charly Evon Simpson and Gabriel Jason Dean break your heart with their seismic words as they interrogate the fallout of mass shootings. It’s a chilling piece that navigates the wide canyons existing between people and how desperate we are to connect, but fail to find each other. It’s a cathartic opportunity for collective mourning.

ENTANGLED is the fourth play of RICOCHET: An Amoralists Anthology about Surviving an American Epidemic. Over the last year The Amoralists ‘WRIGHT CLUB’ playwrights created four original intersecting plays. Their starting point was a mass shooting incident and they each explored the aftermath of the horror from different perspectives. I was fortunate enough to see the first play in the series – TRIGGERED by Gabriel Jason Dean and this powerful piece was top of mind every time yet another gun tragedy assaulted the US. ENTANGLED is the culmination of a season spent excavating the crash site of lone gunmen splintering worlds. The devastating aftershocks are explored through the interweaving monologues of Bradley, the brother of the shooter, and Greta – the mother of one of the victims, Astrid. The playwrights take us deep into the minutest detail of the characters shattering. It’s like a theatrical version of a Knausgaard novel exposing us to the most honest, raw, microscopic view of humans in anguish. The writing is miraculous and shocking. They take you to the cliff edge and race your heart. You only wish that the storyline was some fantastical plotline not a recognizable plague on all of our houses. It is a work that should be seen in every conceivable space across the US.

Director Kate Moore Heaney has crafted an urgent howl, masterfully billboarding a  message we can’t ignore. She places the characters on a small disc in the middle of space, surrounded by the unfathomable emptiness of the encroaching universe and begs us to pay attention closer to home. The spotlight is focused on the essence of things, of people, of experiences. Emotions are prodded and probed to find release. Her staging is stark and focused, the pace – a tightrope of precarious near falls and steady one foot in front of the other mini steps. It’s a brilliant staging of a complex work.

At times you forget that Greta and Bradley are characters because James Kautz and Naomi Lorrain bring such truth and present-ness to their performances that you feel you are living in their skins. Recently, I witnessed Naomi Lorrain’s in Behind the Sheet. It was one of the most phenomenal performances I have ever seen. She is a staggering talent. In ENTANGLED she plunges again into the arms of the muses to surface with a ‘Greta’ that is divinely inspired. It is as if she is channeling the rage, despair and grief of the collective suffering of all of the loved ones who have lost their reason for living. What a gift to witness her skill in action. James Kautz is the founding Artistic Director of The Amoralists and is a visionary – tackling mammoth narratives that need oxygen. As a performer, his beautifully drawn character of a man devolving, unravelled by family and paralyzed by the guilt of not having stopped the terror, is heartbreaking. Kautz lets Bradley’s agony pervade the space like fog billowing over a graveyard. His energy reaching into every corner with his fear hanging heavy in the air. You feel his performance as a cold shiver, a gut feeling, deja vu. Both actors are able to evoke an extremely visceral response in one.

This story is perfectly framed by the production team of Andrew Diaz (Scenic Design), Christina Watanabe (Lighting Design), Matt Otto (Sound Design), Angela Harner (Costume Design) and Kate Freer (Projection Design). Collectively they have orchestrated a sense of the earth and it’s inhabitants adrift, having lost their moorings and unable to hold on to each other for comfort. You are both in the stars and in the blood and veins of the earthlings below. Its a particularly exquisite visuality.

After the performance, I turned on my cell phone and on my news feed I saw that there had been another shooting at a synagogue in San Diego with one person reported dead. We are all caught up in the detritus, the mess of a fractured society and stories like ENTANGLED help us to heal.

 

Running time: 90 Minutes

ENTANGLED runs from April 18 – May 11, 2019 in a limited engagement at the Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre at the A.R.T./New York Theatres, located at 502 West 53rd Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. Purchase at https://Amoralists.com.

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