By David Walters

The Inheritance of a Long-term Fault is two parallel stories, one placed in a fictional bronze-age era and the other modern-day, both focusing on the roles that society fosters upon women. Playing in seesaw tandem, they blatantly beg the question, have we really matured in our societies at all?

Gwen (Gabra Zackman) and Nest (Gina Fonseca) are carding and spinning wool while nitpicking about another member of their community and enjoying the flowers and countryside they inhabit. It’s an all-female society they live in. A lost, cold, and hungry Man (Craig Wesley Divino) stumbles upon them and desperately gestures through the language barrier for help. They momentarily debate but then decide to assist. As he recovers back to health it’s revealed that he is a missionary come to save and modernize the savages, bringing with him all the horrible things that Christians and colonialism did to native populations. He proceeds to deny their language (turning it into a weapon), crush their spirit, dismember their way of life, and re-alter their society. He perpetuates all the ugliness that this sanctimonious establishment can conjure up by destroying their lives and way of life as well as subjugating women to a place of servitude and birthing.

The “mirror up to nature” of these two commingled stories is that despite the time-lapse of history, there is an inherited original sin that perpetuates across centuries shaping societal implications of gender roles and distorting power structures.

In a ploy for self-advancement, Me (Christianne Greirt) steps in uninvited to give the keynote lecture at a major geological conference (a profession lopsidedly male) as her mentor and boss who was scheduled to speak became ill and couldn’t attend. She seeks out the reporter (Gabra Zackman) from a heralded geological magazine and entices her to attend the lecture of an unknown for a possible article. Her talk is a success as it is not the usual dry dust of rocks but stories of time and creation. When she returns home she is called on the carpet by her boss for her self-seeking act and when the magazine article is published it too sides with her chastisement and she ends up losing her job. Her husband (Craig Wesley Divino) has always wanted to have a family while she did not and she suddenly finds herself pregnant and unable to get another position. After the baby is born the child is seen as even more of an impediment to her career. She realizes that she is being pushed into a role that she never wanted to play and leaves her husband with the baby but still fighting the battle of inner choice and outer programming.

The themes of this script are huge, far-reaching, and present-day. There is a richness to playwright Mêlisa Annis‘ work that confronts each audience member and challenges them to see and hear in a different way, asking questions about the norms that surround us, all the while holding our feet to the fire. Several audience members were heard to say that they will be returning as there is too much to absorb in one sitting.

That is true as the script is overflowingly full, the production values did not do the play justice and were lacking in imagination to the extent I was pulled out of the play on numerous occasions. These are two overlapping amalgamated stories with one succinct point that are best served on the same platter.

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The world premiere of The Inheritance of a Long-Term Fault, written by Mêlisa Annis, and directed by Vanessa Morosco.

It stars Craig Wesley Divino, Gina Fonseca, Christianne Greirt, and Gabra Zachman.

Scenic and property design by Jessie Bonaventure; Costume design by Izzy Fields; Lighting design by Elizabeth M. Stewart; and Sound design Angela Baughman.

The Inheritance of a Long-Term Fault will play a limited engagement at Off-Broadway’s Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street, NY, NY 10036). Performances continue through December 23. Tickets are $35 and available at bfany.org/theatre-row/shows/the-inheritance-of-a-long-term-fault/.

Running time is approximately one hour and forty minutes.