From My Seat in The House
By Mari Lyn Henry
The publicity and media frenzy which envelop the mass shootings throughout the world create dramatic material which needs careful handling. In Broken we hear about a teenaged boy who is responsible for killing seventeen people in a shopping mall. He has been incarcerated in solitary confinement for three weeks until he is brought into the office of the prison’s psychiatrist for a meeting or possibly an evaluation. We all want to know the reason for the uncontrollable rage and hatred that defines the killer. However, David Meyers, who is the playwright and plays Kevin McFadden the psychopathic perpetrator, doesn’t really answer the question. He is a victim of a society that bullies the loners, anyone who is different from the pack, has no friends, no invitations to parties, is invisible, ignored, cannot get a girlfriend, a loser who hates sports, can’t sleep, can’t keep a job, and is filled with self-hate. The psychiatrist tries to get him to open up, offers him soda but he can’t drink anything that is carbonated. When he says he has talked to his mother, the kid gets angry and retreats into his shell. It is only when the doctor urges him to keep writing his stories, that he begins to feel less cynical. He has written a short story called “The Book of Jeb” which is about a middle-aged loser who commits suicide at the World Series. This story might be semi-autobiographical but it also telegraphs the ending of the play.
The therapist urges Kevin to write something during their session. He hands him a tablet and a crayon. He is not supposed to give him a pen, a potential weapon, but he does. Unfortuntely when the plot reveals that the psychiatrist tried to bomb his school when he was Kevin’s age, the credibility begins to falter. The connection he is trying to make to get more information does not work and the kid sees the transparency.
When he is asked where he got the gun, he talks about hunting with his dad. He wants to know about Molly, Kevin’s dream girl who has rejected him. His philosophy of “Bad happens to everyone” is just too simplistic for the enormity of the crisis. Unfortunately, one can’t help looking at Kevin’s resemblance to Adam Lanza (Newtown massacre). The social outcasts that want to get even for the slights and arrows they don’t deserve are mentally ill and that needs more attention. But when a lone wolf has killed seventeen strangers in a shopping mall, I have to wonder how he survived the cops’ bullets. No suicide watch? When the guard takes Kevin back to his cell, the therapist notices that the pen is missing. We have to write our own ending. The assumption is that Kevin will attempt to kill himself.
The premise is an intriguing one but the staging is static and more details about the pincipal characters should be fleshed out to increase the dramatic tension.
Michael Pemberton is totally believable as the exasperated psychiatrist trying to get to the truth; David Meyers is credible but lacks subtext.
Broken at the Bridge Theatre, Shetler Studios. 244 W. 54th St. 12th Floor
April 16 -26. Tickets can be puchased at www.BrokenthePlay.com