The Wild Hearted (A Parley Workshop Production)

The Takeaway: Andrew Lee Creech has a Future as a Writer

A workshop production serves a vital role in the development of a play, and thus in the development of a young writer. In my review of Possum, another Parley Production at West on Lenin, I discussed the differences between a play reading and a workshop. One of the main functions of a workshop production is to help the writer see where to make their script better.

The Wild Hearted, Parley’s 33rd workshop since 2014, played before a capacity audience 0f about 90 people at West of Lenin Monday evening. I pause to appreciate and celebrate the vitality of the audience for live theater in Seattle. When a workshop production draws 90 people given the endless digital streaming channels of entertainment I want to honor the people who showed up to support the development of Parley and this playwright.

Four millenials plan a party to celebrate history in the making on Election Night, 2016. Spoiler alert: the history they witnessed unfolding was not the one they had gathered to celebrate. Millennials comprise that generation born between 1981 and 1997, or falling between 19 and 35 by the time by the time of the last national elections.

The script is really funny, and the four are all struggling to land where they want to be. Three of them once worked together at the same coffee franchise. Parker (Aaron Commack), the while male member of this group of acquaintances is living at Nicole’s apartment. He’s looking for work as a truck driver though he has a blemish on his driving record: a DUI. Still, this is what he is trained for and wants to do.

Gracie (Lauryn Rilla Hochberg), the white female from Klamath Falls, Or, is getting tired of the literal crap she has to clean up, and also has to take, working as a barista. Immediately upon coming home she and Parker get into a spat about his looking for work. Should he look for something else just to get some income? The mail brings some bad news: a letter for the landlord that her lease is now month-to-month and they are increasing it $500.

This leads to some faintly radical sentiments (for Seattle politics) from Parker about capping rent so people in the middle might get a decent chance to construct a life for themselves. The couple also bicker about how Parker should behave when Nicole, Gracie’s boss and the woman who fired Parker for him most recent resume line of working at coffee outlet.

At last Nicole (Madison Jade Jones), a black woman, arrives followed soon after by her brother Myles (Mykail Cooley), a young black male.

The roller-coaster electoral college results of this election night rip and tear at the thin affections these acquaintances hold for one another. The lines are funny and consistently land. With just 5 weeks of walk-throughs and scripts in hand, minimal props and a few deft sound cues, the play came fully to life. All the actors put emotion and movement into their performances.

Creech uses the fact that Gracie grew up in Klamath Falls and that it is over 80 percent white and just one percent black to great effect. Parker, as the lone white male, carried too much of the burden of being the foil to several subplots.

I left with the impression that though they all had access to more information at their fingertips than any generation before them, they didn’t seem to put it to much use. For example, Gracie checks of the turkey that she left for Parker to put in the oven. She confesses she hadn’t cooked a turkey before and doesn’t know how long it should be left in. No one thought to use the search on their phones for the answer.

The script can also be strengthened by a character or two putting other knowledge to good use. Creech has three characters with obvious college degrees (the two female character and Myles). Parker might have put in some time in college or even graduated. None make any references to what they may have learned or studied. Yes, they are not able to use their degrees at their jobs, but they are certainly free to use what they know in their personal conversations.

This could enrich the character of Nicole a great deal, for example. Currently, she comes off as a strident black feminist in a contest with Peter to dominate their small gathering—and for Gracie’s affections. She’s also a Political Science major. This is her night. She could spend a few lines explaining the Constitutional Convention compromise that led to this mess call the Electoral College system for electing Presidents. At that Convention it was strongly backed by the Southern slaveholding states. Which could lead into a quick discussion of black voter suppression in these very same states if Republicans dominate the state government.

The writer and researcher Sarah Shulman once commented that Millenials lack a culture of protest. This is particular striking in Creech’s script as each person passively accepts whatever falls to their lot. None consider, for example, finding out who else in the apartment building got rent increases, who in the building would be burdened the most because of a disability, age, or extremely limited income, and what steps they could take to organized. For Seattle in particular, they didn’t consider making a call to Tenant’s Union to get help and briefed on their rights, limited as they are at the moment.

Related to this point, all four characters placed hope as something external to themselves and not something built through their own efforts. Ultimately, though the characters do things and speak to one another, none had a clear character arc where by the end of the play they had moved within themselves even a bit from this passive view of hope to something more engaged and insistent on behalf of themselves against the institutional forces setup to keep their lives off-balance.

Cast: Madison Jade Jones as Nicole ][  Lauryn Rilla Hochberg as Gracie ][ Mykail Cooley as Miles ][ Aaron Cammack as Parker

Production Crew: Rebecca Tourino Collinsworth, Director ][ Emily Doyle, Production Intern

The Wild Hearted, by Andrew Lee Creech, directed by Rebecca Tourino Collinsworth. Workshop presentation by Parley Productions. Runtime: 2 hours with one intermission. West of Lenin. Fremont. One night only, Monday, June 5 at 7 pm.

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