JEREMIAH – Written by Tami Canaday; Directed by Kate Poling. Produced by Benchmark Theatre Company (1560 Teller, Lakewood) through September 2. Tickets available at 303-519-9059 or benchmarktheatre.com.
It starts very small. You see money drop out of someone’s pocket, you pick it up and don’t return it to the person. You tell your buddy a lie when he asks you where you got the money. You tell your wife you went out for a drink with a co-worker without mentioning that the co-worker is the hot new redhead at the front desk. You lie about your net worth or your weight or your age – whatever they are questioning you about today. You are rude to a stranger . . . who is smaller and less important than you . . . in your eyes. And then, you have to tell another lie to cover up the first. In order to preserve the web, another bigger lie is told. Soon you find yourself sliding down a rabbit hole of your own making and there’s no getting out.
Two sets of brothers brought up in the same neighborhood. One downtrodden and helpless to defend themselves. The second born into a family with just a little more street power and confidence. An unspoken rivalry, an acknowledged fear. But then everything changes with the arrival of a new source of power. A gun creates a new set of rules, a new arrogance, a manly glow of confidence . . . even when you don’t really know how to use either the confidence or the gun. A recipe for trouble.
In this examination of a microcosm of one set of circumstances surrounding a situation getting out of hand all too rapidly, one set of brothers – Jeremiah and Mitchell – try to assert the power bestowed by the possession of a firearm. The second set of brothers – cocky and physically brutal Tobias and Todd – take advantage of their position on the street and their knowledge of the source of the gun to assert control over the others. An uncertain situation goes from really bad to out of control in no time at all. A powerful examination of the fragility of the male ego and the misconception that you can keep a tenuous situation under control. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “The (person) who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.” Our boys quickly learn that once the gauntlet is thrown down, there is no turning back.
All four actors do yeoman’s work on this production by running through a roller coaster of emotions. There were a few times when the script called for them to interrupt each other’s dialogue that the timing seemed stilted or didn’t flow as an interruption should have. But for the most part, this was a strong ensemble. Kaden Hinkle as the youngest of all the brothers showed the most intelligence and common sense of any of them. He seemed well aware of the dangers of the path his brother (James Giordano) was taking, but unable to veer him in another direction. Mitchell’s newborn confidence from his possession of a pistol felt too good. The street-smart Tobias and Todd, played by Brandon Billings and Nate Cushing, were steady in their confidence that they always got what they wanted and unafraid to use brute force to do so. It’s a moving examination of the visceral power that a weapon can yield.
The stark alley in which the encounters took place was well designed and constructed by Neil Truglio. If I could suggest one change, it would be that the animated graphics showing news coverage of street shootings were, for the most part, lost to anyone not sitting dead center in the theatre. At the end of the row, I could hear them, but they were so distorted by the angle that it was difficult to tell what was going on. Projecting them to the available back wall would have allowed the whole audience to see them equally. For some reason, I’m thinking that this was probably tried but rejected for some other reason.
A very thoughtful engrossing theatre evening to be sure.
A WOW factor of 8.5!