Staff Writer/Fact Checker/Editor
Please be advised that the performance depicts mature content.
Oh boy. This is going to be a touchy subject to tackle. It’s not as much about my chosen discursive approach to it, as it is about what I can’t reveal in this review.
I couldn’t be anymore serious. Chloë Whitehorn’s script transcribes brilliance in its ability to foreshadow heartbreak’s nadir, using subtle gestures and subtext that only become more apparent as the narrative progresses, to come full circle at the end and trigger hindsight. Regrettably, the only thing I can say about the ending is this: there is no other way the play could have possibly been concluded…
Divine Wrecks asks us to rewind our moral compass and challenge notions surrounding forbidden love. We are introduced to Eddy (Hugh Ritchie), an athletic prodigy and supposed budding Casanova who falls in love with his English teacher Cass (Fleur Jacobs), upon starting at a new high school. We soon find out that Eddy probably isn’t as much of a skirt-chaser as he’s made out to be – in fact, he struggles to make emotional connections, as a result of his difficult upbringing with foster parents and recent car accident. He confides in Cass for support.
The strong bond between them eventually blooms into a heavy romance with equally as heavy consequences. All the while, Eddy’s classmates (portrayed by Annelise Hawrylak, Megan O’Kelly, Michael Pearson and Luis Guillermo Villar) run the rumor mill at full speed – and it’s able to hold much water as we delve into their insights.
Ritchie and Jacobs have undeniable chemistry, no matter what we may think. Eddy is a character who was clearly forced to grow up fast and assume independence, but wasn’t properly socialized and can’t bear to associate with seemingly superficial people his age who don’t share his poetic tendencies. He needs somebody that has a firm grasp on reality, who he can trust to guide him and also make him feel secure.
Enter Cass, a protective and devoted woman who has lost all hope in love – until Eddy shows up. Jacobs is phenomenal in her portrayal of the wise and insightful Cass, who is able to psychoanalyze her younger counterpart and get him to open up, although it turns out to be a lot more forward than expected. Her affection and sincerity are endearing and yet agonizing at the same time because of what she’s getting herself into.
Ritchie masterfully depicts the multiple layers of confused emotions Eddy harbors, in spite of his cool exterior. Eddy isn’t sure how he’s supposed to act or feel since he’s never built solid relations with anyone before. His teenage hormones and extraordinary intelligence are at crossroads, and he’s in need of stability. Ironically enough, Cass becomes vulnerable to his charming advances. She likes the idea of his amorous disposition towards her, wanting to feel young again, and her sympathetic desire to help him makes the situation all the more unavoidable. She wants to claim the moral high ground, but she can’t lose him, as she knows the feeling of losing someone all too well. They both know that in the grand scheme of things, this won’t end well, but it just seems like the right choice at the moment.
All of the characters have incredible wit, especially the classmates, known as the Chorus. They are numbered off, although Hawrylak’s character, a cheerleader, is the only one of the four with a known name, Darla. They represent us, both as the audience and as society who express mixed feelings and offer varying interpretations of the affairs as they unfold.
The Chorus provides hilarity that is essential for this impending tragedy, but most importantly, they raise questions about the different types of love and what should be pursued. They prompt us to think about the different roles we want others to fulfill in our lives, and how when we start combining those roles, they complicate our relationships that much more. I found creativity in the Chorus’ out-of-sync lines, which are manifestations of how our thoughts are overlapped and distorted when we experience strong reactions to things. Pamela Redfern’s direction cannot possibly be more fitting.
The set is a cozy, vintage-style schoolhouse, with ‘50s doo-wop tracks occasionally playing in the background. If I had one nitpick, it would be the added-in popular culture references and modern dance beats. They had me confused as to what time period this play is set in.
The shock value in this performance doesn’t come from the sex scenes. We are instead shocked when we realize what the events lead up to – nothing is ever said explicitly, but we remember that there were actually dropped hints from earlier on emphasizing what was to come.
Divine Wrecks has a galvanizing effect. It necessitates the value of discussion, and I highly encourage sharing comments in our forum below. I want to know what those of you who have watched the performance think of the decision to tell this story.
Divine Wrecks is playing at Alumnae Theatre on 70 Berkeley Street as part of the FireWorks Festival until Nov. 8. For more information visit: http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/divine-wrecks.html