Monday, January 27, 2014

My Daughter Keeps Our Hammer

Katherine Folk-Sullivan (left) and Layla Khoshnoudi (right)
Photo credit: Hunter Canning

With a 65 minute run time, Brian Watkins' My Daughter Keeps Our Hammer is a short and provocative one act play.  It is well worth your time.

The premise is one that the typical New Yorker or urbanite will find foreign.  Two sisters, both college uneducated, living in the middle of a prairie out West.  The elder sister Sarah is burdened with maintaining the family home/land and caring for her ailing mother and a lone sheep named Vicky, while the younger sister Hannah works every day at a roadside diner wrestling with a mild wanderlust and an Isuzu that won't take her anywhere.  Yet its very foreignness is what makes the play all the more poignant when you start to relate to these characters.

The story is told through a series of monologues by the two sisters.  As they state at the beginning, they don't talk much to each other, even as they recall the same events.  Estranged by bitterness, jealousy, and the memories of happier times, Sarah and Hannah's relationship is simultaneously archetypal and personal.  The raw honesty and frequently irreverent humor of their stories highlight the deeper, darker things that often motivate actions.  The strength of this work lies in the characters' step-by-step decisions and tiny explosions of violence, which have the power to transform us from humans with delusions of moral decency to stumbling unrecognizable creatures.  (I once heard a variant of that phrase used with regards to Breaking seemed applicable here.)

I'll leave my description at that because I don't want to give too much away.  Production-wise, the choreography of light was quite brilliant (Was that too punny?) - from flashlight to overhead lamp to flame.  The performance by Katherine Folk-Sullivan (Sarah) was top notch.  She especially shone in the moments when Hannah was speaking and you could see the play of emotions across her face.  Layla Khoshnoudi was delightfully funny and insightful as Hannah.

This was my first Off-Off-Broadway play.  I loved the intimacy of the theatre (only two rows of seats), but it was a very wide stage which made views slightly uncomfortable.  Granted, I was sitting at the end of a row.  I kind of wonder if this play might work in the round...but, random musings.   Final verdict: I highly recommend it.  This is a journey worth going on with Sarah and Hannah.

My Daughter Keeps Our Hammer is playing at The Flea Theater (41 White Street) through February 15.

(press ticket, second row, far left)

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