By Victoria L. Dammer
Sometimes we look at a play’s simple title and assume we know what it will present to the audience. But in the 80-minute performance at the Irish Repertory Theater of Jack Was Kind, playwright Tracy Thorne performs her monologue as a complaining, imaginary wife, who first praises her husband of 26 years, then rebukes him. Thorne keeps the fictionalized character’s secret until the program’s end. Some viewers are stunned to discover the imaginary husband is based on the true story of power and privilege, which parallels a recent political upheaval in Washington.
In the beginning, Thorne’s character admits she’s scared to death of her daughter Flo, who asks, “How could you just sit there?” Scared to death may be a little over the top to describe the inability to confront or expose the truth. However, Flo is too young and ill-equipped to understand why her mother could remain silent, knowing her husband had committed a disgraceful act, hiding behind his power and kindness.
How do you explain this to your daughter? Those who are not wives taught to stand up and support their husbands no matter what cannot relate to this good ol’ boy mentality, even when it’s only shown on the outside. We want to believe that style of reasoning has faded, but it is still a stream of thinking even today. Thorne’s character repeatedly tries to reinforce her opinion of her husband as she sees him and as others see him.
“Jack is all about the look because he has power.”
What we see on the outside is often not what is on the inside.
“Jack was kind.”
We are told only one specific kindness Jack performed throughout the marriage. Thorne’s character relates the story of the 30 presents given for her thirtieth birthday. You would think a wife could offer more specific moments of kindness to persuade the audience he had that trait.
Several themes run throughout the play as the character discusses her possible sexual encounter with her brother, unsure whether her brother penetrated her. And she has father issues of her own, with no mention of her mother’s stance on standing by your man. As Thorne’s character says, “A whole lot of us are doomed from the beginning.”
Thorne’s character struggles with remaining a loyal protector as a wife and mother. As powerful as this battle may be, most of the conversation is emotionless. It gives the impression that she must continually reassure herself the allegations are untrue. Repeat the untruth repeatedly until it becomes true. Finally, the character states, “I sat there to make it true.”
Her voice eventually crescendos to a high level when she displays her grief over the allegations of sexual behavior and the continuous questioning from her daughter. At this point in the play, we realize the public figure Thorne is alluding to, but it may have come a little too late. The character should have sprinkled more emotion throughout the performance, but perhaps the only natural feeling left to her is in the title.
Jack was kind.
Jack Was Kind, written and performed by Tracy Thorne. Directed by Nicholas A. Cotz; scenic design by David Esler; costume design by Haydee Zelideth; lighting design by Kate McGee; sound design by Dante Green; production state management by Michael Palmer; general manager Lisa Fane; press representative Matt Ross Public Relations.
Jack Was Kind now playing through December 18, with opening night Thursday, November 17, at the Irish Repertory Theatre, located at 132 W. 22nd Street, New York 10011.
Running times 80 minutes.
Tickets can be purchased at the box office https://irishrep.org/box-office/