Got up to the big city to see Synchronicity Theatre’s last offering, Ripe Frenzy by Jennifer Barclay. It’s having a rolling world premiere, thanks to the New Play Exchange, and it’s certainly timely.
The premise: A school shooting. But this play is not just tragedy, but deals deftly and comprehensively with all the facets, the entire gamut of emotions that are engendered when beloved children are murdered …and the murderer. Playwright Barclay gives us a wonderful, nuanced portrait of a Mother who is deeply grieving – not because her child was killed but because he was the killer.
The play itself is multi-layed, a complex tapestry of back story told through pleasant reminisce, history and anecdote contrasted with the immediacy of raw, devastating anguish. Occasionally it is a little hard to know just where we’re at but that only seems appropriate too; a shooting is nothing but chaos and confusion. The story of another, previous shooting is layered in, which gives the characters and us a chance to examine motives, as in the most compelling scene when the shooter confronts the mother in her dreams. She cries out, “WHY?” just as we all do, again and again; he responds by hurling reason after reason at her like …well, like bullets from his gun. In the end, does it matter why? Would knowing help those who bury their children?
If at times the play felt rushed…if at times, it felt like a hodgepodge of every theatrical device the playwright and design team could dream up – projections, realism, dream sequences, monologues and even a play within a play – Our Town – it can be forgiven. I only object to the addition of spontaneous singing in the home stretch – that felt like a tune too far when my sensory load was already peaked.
Well acted, thoughtfully directed, this script absolutely deserves to celebrated and seen. I’m very glad Synchronicity did it. For the record, I’ve yet to see a show at this mighty little theatre that I didn’t love.