By Holli Harms
The description of the play says that A STOPPING PLACE is a, “riveting exploration of the lasting effects that trauma inflicts on the individual…” The director’s note said she found herself being taught by the play: that everything is sacred, including chaos.
I would have liked to have seen THAT play, because the production I saw was bereft of those descriptions. I did see the germs of them, but not the actual execution.
Standing on the top of a tall building watching pieces of debris, of furniture and air conditioner units fall from other buildings, Stephen Powell’s everyman attempts to introduce us to his trauma (unknown and unnamed), and tell us of his desire to fall with the debris and thus end his pain and confusion.
But he doesn’t. He decides to endure.
The “trauma” he chooses to live with becomes visual in the form of red balls, which is clever and interesting, but becomes dissipated in Mr. Powell’s desire to hit the audience over the head with those physical balls of trauma. Asking over and over if we see them and then when the balls are eventually taken away ( we SAW that coming) he continues to ask if we see them. I wanted to exclaim, “Yes! We get it, they were never really there. Get it!”
It is a often hard to remember that as a writer you do not need to explain every detail – every move, nuance. Audiences are very smart and can find their way without neon signs directing them. You can stop trying to catch us up to you. We are caught up. We are there. We may have even passed you.
Not only the dialogue but the play’s staging wanders and mumbles and bounces and ricochets. Thoughts and ideas appear and then just as fast, retreat, creating no foundation of story or even character for us to grab onto.
I do encourage Mr Powell to continue to explore this place of trauma and other universal places of comfort and discomfort, but with a watchful eye on the actual “story” to be told. Which does not mean that I require a linear story, just a compelling one.
A STOPPING PLACE – Written and Performed by Stephen Powell, Directed by Clara Pagone
Produced by Leonie Ettingert; Friday, Thursday, June 30th at 7:30pm; Saturday, July 2nd at 9pm; and Sunday, July 3rd at 1pm at Paradise Factory, 64 East 4th Street, between 2nd Avenue and the Bowery in New York City. Tickets $18 www.planetconnections.org or at the theater before each performance. Paradise Factory is accessible by the F train at 2nd Avenue or the 6 train at Bleecker Street. The show is appropriate for ages 15 and up. For more information, visit seestephenpowell.com/a-stopping-place.