By Elizabeth Ahlfors
Presented by New York’s Fault Line Theatre, playwright Nick Gandiello’s The Wedge Horse examines adolescents in a contemporary zeitgeist with all the trauma of sudden loss, a splintering family and in-your-face world upheavals witnessed by a cell phone tweet or a laptop click.
Off-Broadway at the IATI Theater, The Wedge Horse follows 18-year-old Bobby and his sister, Maddy, 17, over a few days in the fall of 2003, as they struggle coping with the loss of their older brother, Sam. Sam was the golden boy of the Shoreman family with a job at the World Trade Center, where he was killed by a terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Each family member is left to forge his own path, trying to work out how to keep Sam’s memory alive.
Directed by Aaron Rossini, the tale begins two years after the bombing. The family lives in the working class suburb of Baldwin, Long Island. Bobby (Charlie Thurston) and Maddy (Ali Rose Dachis) are in high-school, close siblings, dependent on each other. (Says Maddy, “Anything about Sam is a me and you thing, forever. Because they tried to take him from us but he’s still ours.”) However, now they find their longtime connection is tenuous, tugged apart by parents. Their mother has isolated herself, quiet and distanced. Their father contacted the military and wants to put Sam’s name on a U.S. bomb that will be dropped on Iraq. He tries to convince daughter, Maddy, to go along with this plan of reprisal and as usual, he ignores Bobby who has always craved his attention. Maddy and Bobby have to decide for themselves if they will agree with their father.
The exemplary actors delve deeply into their characterizations and come up with spirited tangible depictions. While the dialogue’s accent is almost unintelligible and takes some getting used to, Ali Rose Dachis (Fish In the Dark) is a feisty and outspoken Maddy, angry with the dishonesty around her. As she says, “all y’all frontin’ like everything sacred.” She is in love with Carlos, a Dominican high school student from the next town, portrayed by Jorge Eliezer Chacon (Love’s Labour’s Lost). Carlos is edgy, tough with tattoos and one half of his head shaved with the other side intricately braided. He runs with a local gang and deals in drugs and Chacon sharply illustrates his quick temper while showing a sweet love for Maddy. Bobby, played by Thurston (Red Door), is gawky and high-strung, a good student but overwhelmed with life and now has to adjust his feelings of his little sister being sexually active with Carlos whom he calls his best friend.
The three learn how to empathize, if not agree with each other. Decisions are made but the family is fractured. Influenced by a cousin, Carlos finds a path for himself in the army but Maddy has been badly hurt by her dishonest family. Maddy tells Bobby, if she does not leave with her mother, “I’d still be in a house with people who cut me out when they don’t get their way.” Bobby now has his father’s attention and in turn, Dad has Bobby’s agreement on the bomb. Today, looking back at 2003, we have all seen the consequences of their decisions.
Every issue is not followed through to a conclusion but Aaron Rossini’s direction keeps each character well-defined and the action moves with staccato speed. All the interaction is on a Baldwin train platform and the lights and sound of unseen passing trains lend a theatrical sense of speeding time. Izzy Fields costumes reflect the age group in Maddy’s short skirts and the men’s hoodies. A poignant touch is the matching thick string necklaces worn by Maddy and Bobby, remembrances of their late brother.
Scene design is by Tristan Jeffers and dramatized by John Eckert ‘s lighting design and sound by Chad Raines. Previews of The Wedge Horse at IATI Theater, 64 East 4th St.. began January 29, 2015 and opened on February 3, 2016 running thru February 21, 2016. Runs 100 minutes. Tickets are $29. Visit http://faultlinetheatre.tix.com
Photos: B.J. Goldberg