Once again, the Tacoma Little Theatre design team of Blake R. York (Master Carpenter), Jen York (Resident Scenic Artist), Frank Roberts (Lead Carpenter) and Gunnar Johnson, Robin Mae Becar, Alyshia Collins, Dana Galagan, and Lissa Valentine (Build & Paint Crew) have given us a beautiful and substantial set. A city skyline is abstractly painted outside of the apartment windows.
We see an upscale downtown apartment in the large city where scientist/physicist Dee Dee Dawson and her grown son Sonny live. Dee Dee sees from her apartment window, the violent mugging and death of her son Sonny, a black on black urban crime. Dee Dee asks for and receives permission from the courts to have young gang member Jonah (with a house arrest ankle bracelet) live with her to atone for the crime. Jonah half-heartedly objects, but accepts the rules.
Peg and I first saw Robin McGee (Dee Dee) as the landlord in the 100th TLT Anniversary Year play Laura. Donovan Mahannah (Jonah) I first saw in the Centerstage production of Bye Bye Birdie in 2019. I believe Shattering marks the first leading roles for both of them. Dee Dee is kind and nurturing, and gives Jonah room to grow. He is expected to do laundry: “Why I gotta do laundry?” “You wear clothes.” He must take turns cooking: “Why I gotta cook?” “Because you eat.” He must be useful and live up to Dee Dee’s expectations.
Jonah takes over Sonny’s bedroom and begins reading his journal. He envisions Sonny and his mother’s relationship and questions her intentions as well as life in general.
Sonny is played by Joshua Hector. He was involved in student films at Full Sail University, where he has a degree in Entertainment Business studies. Shattering is Joshua’s introduction to stage acting.
Jonah’s girlfriend, LaBelle, played by Cynthia Kinyanjui, is pregnant and maintains gang connections. LaBelle sees the only life choice for her and Jonah as within the protection of the gang. She pressures Jonah to accept her wishes and her dreams as his life. She reminds me of a young Lady Macbeth. Shattering is also Cynthia’s American stage debut.
At intermission, my wife Peg said, “Great play.” At the end of the production, my response was “Almost.” In the second act we see a flashback of Dee Dee talking to Sonny four years after he left, tracking him, now 20, after he left home at sixteen. Although the scene shows us more about their relationship, to me it slowed and interrupted the story line and could have been shortened considerably. Also, near the end of the play, Jonah’s fretting and soul-searching goes on too long, which again interrupts the flow.
This was the world premiere of Shattering. “The American Association of Community Theatre (AACT) is proud to include Tacoma Little Theatre as a Producing Theatre in AACT NewPlayFest 2020!” Representatives from the Jack K. Ayre and Frank Ayre Lee Theatre Foundation were on hand, and prior the production, presented Director Chris Serface with a check for four thousand dollars as partial funding for the presentation. Play author, Pat Montley was also on hand to watch the riveting performance.
In the final scene Jonah must decide to carry through with a torture and murder of Dee Dee or turn his back on the gang, his girlfriend, and the living he grew up with. We know what’s right, and yet we see the pressure he is under. We are left knowing that she has had an impact on his life and he on hers. Dee Dee poured out “. . .to him whatever love I have remaining with me.” Isn’t that what life and family is about?