Ian Saint-Germain and Ella Kennedy Davis
Photo: Joan Marcus
by Edward Medina
us not bandy about. This Flat Earth is an important play. It is among
the first of its kind to arrive in the theatrical commercial mainstream. It
will sadly not be the last. This production is a clear clarion call for a
problem that is only now becoming locked into our national psyche even though
it's grown from a constant and seemingly unending set of events. This Flat
Earth by Lindsey Ferrentino, now at Playwrights Horizons, is about the
death of our young students, the individual impact this has on all our daily
lives, the struggles that present themselves as we pay a repeated cost, and the
message manifests itself as a subtly delivered yet powerfully landed punch to
the societal gut.
is a critical age. It’s the supposed time when teenagers begin that transition
into adulthood. It’s a time of reality and responsibility. Reality comes
crashing in on Julie and Zander. They’re both thirteen and living in an idyllic
seaside town in New England. They also both attend a perfect middle school
where a gunman has entered the building and shattered their lives. Both teens
are trying desperately to process the event each in their own way. Ian
Saint-Germanin as Zander is a wonder of awkward but deeply caring pubescent
contradictions. Ella Kennedy Davis takes the role of Julie to heart and succeeds
comically and gracefully in wrestling with the complex issues before them. We
see a majority of the coping both good and bad through Julie’s eyes and they
are the perfect lenses for viewing troubled understanding.
Cassie Beck, Ian Saint-Germain (in background), Lucas
Papaelias and Ella Kennedy Davis.
the kids are trying to find meaning in chaos the adults here are attempting to
do the same. Julie’s single dad Dan, a former standup comic turned working
class hero in order to make things better for his daughter, doesn’t have all
the tools necessary to answer his daughters very real and sometimes abstract
questions but he tries as hard as he can to help. Sometimes a little too hard.
Lucas Papaelias is charming and endearing here as Dan. He’s the perfect
slightly imperfect father fueled by well-meaning intentions. The other counter
balancing grown up here is Lisa played by Cassie Beck who’s a powerhouse
actress filling her role with jumbled nerves and tortured angst. As she comes
and goes Lisa serves as a constant reminder of the incident. She lost her
daughter that day. The energy of that loss is always with her and it impacts
everyone in this world.
above them all, quite literally due to the fabulous two-story set of scenic
designer Dane Laffrey, is Cloris. She lives in the apartment above Julie and
Dan and its from there that she rules the roost as the sage goddess figure of
the proceedings. Lynda Gravatt’s performance is stellar and grounding. She
brings a knowing gravitas that helps to provide a much-needed balm to not only
Dan and the kids but to those of us in the dark as well. Cloris has been
around, she’s experienced all that life has to offer, she understands that life
is a set of patterns that are as predictable as they are unpredictable and that
change for the better is sometimes hard fought and hard won.
the start of This Flat Earth author Ferrentino carefully sets about the
business of layering in a narrative foundation and then methodically reverse
engineering this emotional time bomb as she peels back each layer. By the time
the ninety minutes are up she leaves you an emotional but much wiser mess.
There is no hammer here pounding the nail home. There is no rallying cry
driving you to action. There is just a constant sense of truth in the midst of
heartfelt questions and genuine pain. Everyone in this world pays a price and
because the writer never talks down to her audience we easily empathize with
each of them.
production is deftly directed by Rebecca Taichman but Ferrentino and Taichman
both work together seamlessly to let their characters breathe the moments of
their lives which enables us to witness our own in theirs. Writer and director
both let these characters find humor in the dark, compassion in the light, and
everyone is allowed their cathartic pangs without judgement. Whether at the blunt
end of the barrel of a gun, or at the sharp point of a jointly crafted moment, This
Flat Earth proves itself to be a significant work that never preaches as it
enlightens in the midst of our current politically polarized climate.
416 West 42nd
$49 - $89
Mar 16 – April 29, 2018