Monday, May 05, 2008
From John: A Play by Claire Buckingham
You are in a studio theater, on Broadway in the village. The room is approximately 30 by 60 feet, walls painted black. There are chairs lining the walls. When you enter the room, people are taking their seats. After a bit, the lights dim. Then you hear a crash. After a moment, a slim beam of light comes on, and you realize that the crash was a chair being kicked over. In that moment you see a young man, his neck at an unnatural angle, twisting slightly. He is John, and he has just hanged himself.
After a moment, he straightens up, and, for the rest of the play, his ghost hovers silently nearby as the other three characters.... Edna (the fiancée he left behind), Alva (the kind farmer and WWII veteran she meets and eventually marries), and Lauren (Edna and Alva's teenaged granddaughter)... interact. The story moves back and forth between Edna and Alva's life as young people and her life as an elderly widow, when her granddaughter discovers the story of John, the dead fiancé whose memory haunted her marriage.
The play was written and directed by Claire Buckingham, a senior at Big City U. There was not one moment of the play that I did not believe. It was as emotionally honest and pure a piece of art as I have ever witnessed, beautiful and poignant storytelling, funny and devastating all at once. My son played Alva, the man who marries the haunted young woman. It was, to me, the most beautiful, transparent and vulnerable piece of acting I have seen him do. His first scene, when he is meeting the young, grieving schoolteacher Edna, made me weep.
The entire experience was so extraordinary, I almost can't describe it. But it was one of my proudest moments as a mother of a young person who is trying to live for his art.
And do keep an eye out for Claire Buckingham. If this is an example of what she is capable of doing as a college student... wow. Look out.