Theater J presents Something You Did, a gripping emotional drama examining the consequences of youthful ideals.
By Julie LaPorte
Entering her 30th year in prison for the part she played in the death of a police officer in an anti-war bombing, Alison Moulton is seeking more than just an early release from jail. She is seeking mercy, understanding and a way to make amends. Written by Willy Holtzman and directed by Eleanor Holdridge, Something You Did is playing at Theater J through October 3.
There is no question that Alison Moulton (Deborah Hazlett) bought the nails that filled the bomb that exploded in a train station, but the resulting death of Officer Renshaw was not her intent. Eager to help her win parole after 30 years behind bars are her lawyer Arthur Rossiter (Norman Aronovic) and her prison guard Uneeq Edmunds (Lolita-Marie). Standing in opposition are the policeman’s daughter Lenora Renshaw (Aakuh Freeman) and Alison’s former-lover-and-activist-turned-neoconservative Eugene Biddle (Rick Foucheux).
Hazlett’s Alison is reserved, contained, as though her prison bars are now inside her soul. But she is still arguing passionately for the ideals of her youth, for “the good old days when we knew better days would come,” as Gene tells her quietly. Foucheux was brilliant as Gene – dynamic, forceful, unapologetic of who and what he has become. Aronovic portrays Arthur as a scrappy Brooklyn street fighter, used to fighting for lost causes. But his gruff exterior can do nothing to hide the care and worry he has for Alison.
Lolita-Marie’s Uneeq may not have had any breaks in life, but she is not bitter. She feels deeply and acts in accordance with her heart. Freeman was truly heartbreaking in her portrayal of Lenora. She is a strong, successful woman, but inside she will always be a young girl who has lost her father.
The majority of the encounters between these people take place in the prison library, lined with low bookshelves, a large metal table with four chairs center stage.
Bars extend in every direction. Each interaction raises the stakes of Alison’s parole, the tension building as she meets with Lenora – the two sharing emotional reminisces of the last moments they spent with their fathers – and with Gene – the sparks flying between them as they wage an ideological war.
Rick Foucheux has been named Theater J’s Associate Artist-in-Residence for the 2010-2011 season. He will also appear in Theater J’s The Odd Couple and The Chosen.
“It’s an unusual thing for me,” he said. “I usually work at three or four theatres during the year. This is the first time I’ve done an entire year at one theatre.
I’m happy about it because I like all three projects very much and I like the staff and the feeling at Theater J.”
One of his recent productions was R. Buckminster Fuller: THE HISTORY (and Mystery) OF THE UNIVERSE at Arena Stage. He contrasted that one-man show to Theater J’s Something You Did.
“This is a good, solid – what I would call a straight-ahead – drama,” he said. “No bells and whistles. HISTORY (and Mystery) OF THE UNIVERSE was full of multi-media and technical acrobatics. And the fact that it was a one-man show, the material was fairly acrobatic for me. This is just some really fine, meaty, dramatic acting. I have great scene partners with Norman Aronovic and Deborah Hazlett. And it’s refreshing to get onstage and interact with another person in a deep and emotional way. It goes back to the purity of why I got into acting in the first place. To try to reach others, not only in reaching the audience, but we have a real chance to touch each other on stage.”
Theater J has several ways for the audience to interact with this production – with discussions, panels and talk balks scheduled to explore the themes in Something You Did.
“The theater always makes us think in a way that movies and television can’t because they are so visual,” he continued. “I think theatre is a literary exercise as much as an entertainment exercise, and we leave the theatre, if not smarter for it, at least asking different questions than when we walked in.”
For more information on the play, companion events and to purchase tickets for Something You Did, please visit Theater J.
Julie LaPorte is a freelance writer living outside Washington, DC. For the past year she has served as a columnist for Washington Life Magazine – penning reviews for the Performing Arts and the Paint the Town columns. She also works as a political marketing copywriter for candidates in local, state and national campaigns as well as for Congressional franked mail.