went to see “evie’s waltz” by carter w. lewis at geva theatre. the reading was part of geva’s american voices series.
what an explosive play – full of conflict and contradictions, bitterness, delusions, verbal violence and physical aggression. danny’s bizarre behavior results in his parents’ emotional detachment, especially on the part of his mother. it also invites persistent abuse at school. his friend and neighbor evie has her own problems. her mother has survived her father’s departure and the forced lowering of her expectations by turning to booze. evie is dangerously reckless with a long list of exploits to prove it, such as using a nail gun to pierce her tongue. she and danny have known and loved each other since they were children. together they seem to attain some sense of calm sanity, like partners in a perfect waltz. yet here they are – caught trying to buy a gun on the internet. there are detailed maps of their school stashed inside danny’s locker and a disturbing blood stain on evie’s neck as she shows up for a family barbecue at danny’s house. the play is a fusillade of words that summarizes every strained relationship in the play. danny’s parents argue the bejesus out of anything that comes their way. they have reached a place in their marriage where a spouse is just an irritant in a series of disappointments and verbal jousting is the only means of communication left. evie lashes out at them for all these reasons. she is smart but has her own distorted sense of reality. danny, whom we never see and who is perched in the woods behind his house looking at evie and his parents through the scope of a rifle, participates in the conversation through text messaging and well-timed rifle shots.
the play is well-written with a litany of intense, forceful, actionable language that brings home the clash between incongruous realities. the verbal savagery is an apt vehicle for exposing the violence inherent in 21st century american culture – whether it’s the story of the well-intentioned parents who have lost touch with their child and their own sense of self, the single mother who feels isolated and hopeless, the little girl who learns to act out to forge a sense of identity and acquire a false sense of control, and the little boy who deals with his oddity by taking revenge on the world. although the play is about more than the genesis of a school shooting it nevertheless touches a nerve, especially in view of the latest northern illinois university shootings.
here i have to say how ridiculous i find efforts to prevent such terrible tragedies by trying to identify possible assailants in their early childhood or through sensitivity training or some kind of social discourse where potential problems like violence in films, video games and rap music are happily pointed out. we can analyze our socio-cultural identity and the age we live in until we’re blue in the face. the answers need not be so broad, complex and ultimately impossible to redress. anger is natural and so is social alienation, teenage angst and mental disease. these are things we will never be able to fully understand or regulate unless we start replacing human beings with impeccably-wired robots. humans will be humans. the only thing that makes america different from other countries where school shootings are not commonplace is the easy availability of guns. anger is natural but the snappy and efficacious use of a gun to act out that anger is not!