I saw GOD’S EAR in Somerville this weekend– and I’m hearing what she’s hearing. Jenny Schwartz’s play presented by Actors’Shakespeare Project is a fleet, funny, soul-searing tour de force by a nimble cast and a wise, witty director Thomas Derrah. Imagine the accidental death of a child–and the shattering explosion of grief that attends. Now imagine trying to use words to put it all back together. That is exactly what Schwartz does here; she has constructed a drama out of the words these parents use to express the inexpressible. To deal. To comprehend. To put one foot in front of the other. To live.
The play puts inordinate verbal demands on the company, a company which is used to the extraordinary demands of language– usually Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter. Here, the verse is contemporary and variable, one long, gorgeous 90 minute spoken poem in counterpoint, conjuring up the broken world these characters now inhabit. We are in expert hands.
First, Tamara Hickey & Gabriel Kuttner as the suffering parents Mel and Ted are boxed in– the stage looks like is a rectangle enclosing a series of whitewashed boxes, an unmade bed and a sandbox in the foreground; beyond, an oblong cut-out like a screen through which all the characters emerge and regress.
As the mother, the delicately featured Tamara Hickey appears greyed out, skull-like, bleached to the bone, her depression clinging to dingy pajamas. She frantically moves from rage to sorrow to catatonia, and every space in between. She scales a mountain of a monologue early on in the piece, a cataclysm of cliches dwarfed by the abyss of her pain, pain which will end “when pigs fly” or “today…the first day of the rest of my diet…”
As the father, Kuttner appears shell-shocked in a rumpled suit, navigating his way through airport lounge singers–enter Marianna Bassham who croons dippy non sequiturs. John Kuntz appears (hilariously noted in the program as the same actor in two roles!) first as a surly female flight attendant and later as GI JOE giving advice as plastic as his hair. A cheery old tooth fairy crawls in with wings askew and a gleam in her eye as a little bell rings! This is all funny, desperate, and somehow familiar and accessible.
Gradually, as the words pile up, the less they all say. We see that the director and playwright have expertly guided these characters through every increasingly futile verbal trope, past the pain which fuels the words, to the connection beyond words, and which these extraordinary actors transmit past the text to our deepest selves. The playwright and this company seem to have God’s Ear–and I hope they will also have yours. See GOD’S EAR at The Davis Square Theatre in Somerville through April 12 !