Total Rating: 
February 4, 2018
Interrobang Theater Project
Theater Type: 
The Athenaeum
Theater Address: 
2936 North Southport Avenue
Lee Blessing

Exhortations to be "loyal, brave and true" are commonplace in songs designed to rally the troops—military, religious or athletic—but what happens when the actions spurred by these values come into conflict? This is the query posed in this Chicago premiere play by the prolific Lee Blessing.

The plot breaks with classic structure by commencing with the arrival of the messenger at the moment of crisis—in this case, assistant football coach Toby recounting to pregnant wife Mia how he accidentally witnessed head coach Mitch Carlson sharing an intimate tryst with a naked teenage boy. (If this premise sounds familiar, Google "Penn State sex scandal.")

Mia is actually the second to learn of the event, however, the first being department chairman Hale, who cautions Toby to keep quiet, lest the school's athletic program suffer a public scandal. Soon thereafter, Hale summons all three instructors to an off-campus disciplinary meeting, but not before Mia demands that Carlson confess his crime, and when he doesn't, shoots him dead.

Or does she? Barely has the weapon discharged than Carlson re-emerges to wipe blood off his forehead (but leaving the bullet hole) and amicably address his attacker, whose vigilante retribution eventually sends her to prison, where she contemplates the consequences of her deed and speculates on possible alternate outcomes. What if her shot had not been fatal and Carlson only wounded? What if her husband had not told her what he had seen? What if she had gone to the authorities—a woman haunted by guilt over a childhood friend's incest-inspired suicide, who exhibits no remorse at killing an unarmed man on the strength of hearsay evidence. Would her execution of a single predator guarantee the safety of future victims, ensuring their gratitude for such rescue as it provides, or was her only accomplishment to ascertain that her own son would grow up motherless?

A more immediate question is whether audiences in 2018 are willing to abandon comfortable good-bad dichotomies to confront the complexities of moral transgressions in our society and their own ambivalence theretoward. Playwright Blessing doesn't let us off the hook, nor does the cast assembled by director James Yost for this Interrobang Theatre production, so be prepared to ask yourself, to whom do you owe your loyalty, your bravery and your truth?

This review first appeared in Windy City Times, 1/18
Mary Shen Barnidge
Date Reviewed: 
January 2018