Shattering – Tacoma Little Theater Play Review – The Suburban Times
Once again, the Tacoma Little Theater design team consisting of Blake R. York (Master Carpenter), Jen York (Residence Scenic Artist), Frank Roberts (Senior Carpenter) and Gunnar Johnson, Robin Mae Becar, Alyshia Collins, Dana Galagan and Lissa Valentine (Build & Paint Crew) gave us a beautiful and substantial set. A city skyline is painted abstractly outside the windows of the apartment.
We see an upscale downtown apartment in the big city where scientist/physicist Dee Dee Dawson and her adult son Sonny live. Dee Dee watches from her apartment window the violent assault and death of her son Sonny, a black-on-black urban crime. Dee Dee seeks and receives permission from the courts for young gang member Jonah (with an anklet under house arrest) to live with her to atone for the crime. Jonah halfheartedly opposes it, but agrees to the rules.
Peg and I saw Robin McGee (Dee Dee) for the first time as an owner in TLT’s 100th anniversary Laura play. Donovan Mahannah (Jonah) who I first saw in the Centerstage production of Bye Bye Birdie in 2019. I believe Shattering marks the first lead roles for both. Dee Dee is kind and caring, and gives Jonah room to grow. He is expected to do the laundry: “Why do I have to do the laundry?” “You are wearing clothes.” He must take turns cooking: “Why do I have to cook?” “Because you eat.” It must be useful and live up to Dee Dee’s expectations.
Jonah takes possession of Sonny’s room and begins to read his newspaper. He contemplates the relationship between Sonny and his mother and questions his intentions as well as life in general.
Sonny is played by Joshua Hector. He was involved in student films at Full Sail University, where he majored in entertainment business studies. Shattering is Joshua’s introduction to theatre.
Jonah’s girlfriend, LaBelle, played by Cynthia Kinyanjui, is pregnant and has gang ties. LaBelle considers the only choice of life for her and Jonah to be under the protection of the gang. She pressures Jonah to accept her wishes and dreams as his life. She reminds me of a young Lady Macbeth. Shattering is also Cynthia’s first American feature film.
At intermission, my wife Peg said, “Great play.” At the end of production, my answer was “Almost”. In the second act, we see a flashback of Dee Dee talking to Sonny four years after he left, stalking him, now 20, after he left home at sixteen. Although the scene shows us more of their relationship, for me it slowed down and interrupted the storyline and could have been significantly shortened. Also, near the end of the play, Jonah’s worry and introspection lasts too long, which again interrupts the flow.
It was Shattering’s world premiere. “The American Association of Community Theater (AACT) is proud to include Tacoma Little Theater as a theater producer in AACT NewPlayFest 2020!” Representatives of the Jack K. Ayre and Frank Ayre Lee Theater Foundation were on hand and, prior to production, presented director Chris Serface with a check for four thousand dollars as partial funding for the presentation. Author of the play, Pat Montey was also on hand to witness the captivating performance.
In the final scene, Jonah must decide whether to continue torturing and murdering Dee Dee or turning his back on the gang, his girlfriend, and the living he grew up with. We know what is right, and yet we see the pressure he is under. We know that she had an impact on his life and he on hers. Dee Dee spilled out”. . .to him all the love that I have remained with me. Isn’t that the raison d’etre of life and of the family?