Monday, January 18, 2016

Applause! Applause! Review of Anna Moench's In Quietness at Walkerspace by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Anna Moench's In Quietness at Walkerspace was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

In Quietness
Written by Anna Moench
Directed by Danya Taymor
Walkerspace
46 Walker Street
New York, New York 10013
Reviewed 1/14/16  

Paul (Blake DeLong) and Max (Kate MacCluggage) have been married for 5 years. She is a highly paid executive who helps Health Insurance Companies maximize profit and minimize waste. She supports her husband financially allowing him to write while she is away during the week, but, without fail, she returns every weekend so they can spend quality time together. Paul hasn't been very productive as a writer and a year ago, he started attending a Bible Study meeting led by a Southern Baptist. He grew up Lutheran (Missouri Synod) but started to read the Bible more intensely. His wife was "spiritual" at best and wasn't very good in the kitchen or with household chores. Paul confesses to Max he has been having an affair with a woman he met at Bible Study. His mistress was hit by a taxi and she is now in a coma and unresponsive. Max is more understanding than most would be realizing it could not have been easy for Paul to be alone on all those days she was out of town. She suggests they just forget about it ("Clean slate. New Day & All That Shit!") but Paul says he can't just start over since he loves the woman. With the state of their marriage in limbo, Max continues to work and Paul continues to sit by the side of his unresponsive mistress who lies in quietness.

One day, Paul comes to the conclusion that God is punishing him for having an affair by hurting someone he loves (namely, his mistress). The only way to make things right (in his irrational mind) is to train to become a Southern Baptist minister. By serving God, he hopes God will stop his suffering by saving the life of his mistress. He doesn't seek forgiveness for cheating on his wife nor does he seek to save his marriage. Paul enrolls at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and unbelievably, Max gives up her job as a highly paid executive and goes with him, signing up to be a Hostess at Homemaking House, where she is expected to be an inspiration to the other girls who are coming to learn how to be supportive wives and homemakers. The other Hostess position is held by Beth (Lucy DeVito), who completely buys into the Southern Baptist view on the proper subservient role of women within the marriage relationship. ("A woman should learn in quietness and full submission." - 1 Timothy 2:11; "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church." 5 Ephesians 22-23) Beth's fiance is Dusty (Rory Kulz), who we don't meet until the end of the play and is nothing like anything we expected. The head of Homemaking House is Terri (Alley Scott), who once ran a Finishing School and is still, as of yet, unmarried.

There are many twists and turns in this brilliantly written script that raises many questions about gender roles in modern marriage. Beth criticizes Paul for not taking responsibility as the head of his household and for giving his wife "mistrust and doubt" despite her best efforts to save their marriage. But Beth also comes down hard on Max for denying her husband sex when he climbed in through an open window, and in a drunken state, almost raped her before she could push him off her. As Beth believes, "If your husband wants you, you can't say no." Beth is a natural-born preacher but that role is reserved for men according to the Bible so she is content to be supportive of her husband in his ministry. Testing their marriage further is the fact that Paul gets off on having a subservient wife who cooks his meals and launders his shirts, but he went one step too far when he suggested he likes his dress shirts hung and not folded, in order to avoid their having wrinkles. Paul starts to believe he has already been saved and starts to adopt the Southern Baptist philosophy that he is obligated to be "the head of the household." This role is reinforced by Terri, who treats him special and explains to him that Max was only hired, not because of her resume, but because Paul can't succeed as a minister without his wife's help. When Max questions how an adulterer can make a good preacher, Terri explains that some of the best ministers needed to go to the depths of Hell before being able to identify with the frailties and weaknesses in each of the members of the congregation.

Lucy DeVito (the daughter of Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman) who plays Beth is by far the standout performer in this very talented ensemble cast. She has the most complex role and many layers to her character to portray, each which she handles brilliantly. Alley Scott is charismatic and consistent as Terri, the head of Homemaking House. She comes across fully dedicated to her goal of helping young women prove they are ready to take on the duties of wife and homemaker in a Christian home. Blake DeLong as Paul accurately depicts a man in emotional and psychological crisis, who is more in need of a psychiatrist than he is in need of a seminary. Max is far too committed to keeping her marriage together under the most extreme circumstances. It makes me wonder how insecure she really is and whether she cheated on Paul when she was on the road. Kate MacCluggage is very powerful as Max but the motivation behind her character's decisions are extremely unclear. Why is she still hanging around Paul when all he seems to care about is bargaining with God to save the life of his mistress? He takes no responsibility for his actions and still blames her for not giving him the emotional support he says he needed. Max even buys into this to some extent by taking some responsibility for not being around enough. I won't spoil the end of the play for you or tell you whether Beth and Dusty, and Max and Paul, end up together. You will just have to go see the play in order to find out. 

I was extremely impressed with the script written Anna Moench. It doesn't bash religious beliefs but instead, simply represents them leaving it up to the audience to draw their own judgments and conclusions. Various gender roles in marriage are also explored. Danya Taymor, the niece of Julie Taymor, did a fine job of directing this complex piece of theater. The acting, writing and directing nicely came together in a cohesive whole. The play was interesting and the issues it raised were relevant, important, and timely.

In Quietness runs for 1 hour, 45 minutes without intermission. Tickets are only $18.00. The play runs through Saturday, January 30, 2016. For more information, visit http://dutchkillstheater.com/  

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