A Rattle of Keys
Dir. Joanna Alpern
Rattle of Keys has left me cross. I was cross when I left my seat after the bows. I was cross when I walked back home in the sudden onset typhoon. I am still mildly miffed a day afterwards and my mood doesn’t look like its about to lift anytime soon.
So, as it comes down to writing this review, I’m trying to figure out why exactly I am so cross with it. Is it because of the subject matter? Joanna Alpern’s new play deals with the harrowing topic of violence against women inside the military, as well as how soldiers cope with post traumatic stress disorder, in a provocative manner that forces the audience to come face to face with an uncomfortable reality. Yet that’s not it – the playwright clearly knows her craft, choosing neither to obscure the truth by laying it on too thick nor trivialize it by coming up with miraculous solutions.
Nor could you lay the blame at the feet of the acting. The physicality of the actors playing Nick (Sebastian Carrington–Howell) and Alice (Kuffasse Boane) was superb, mastering the subconscious ticks that ensured their characters remained at high states of tension throughout the play. The actors navigated their characters from the lows of civilian life through to the dehumanizing heart of the play and should be applauded for taking on the herculean task.
I’m mad because this is a play of two thirds. Two out of three characters feel well considered, yet Florence (played by Cara Mahoney), a psychiatrist and mother of Nick, doesn’t seem to get the same treatment. Her apparent weakness in relation to Alice may have just been a directorial decision, but alongside her apparent lack of knowledge about violence against women in the military, it was difficult to believe in her character. This isn’t so much the fault of the actress’s performance as it is that of the writer. For a three-hander, the character needed more development than she received – a misstep in an otherwise fairly solid script.
When the lights went down at the end of the show, nobody clapped immediately. Maybe for some it was because they were harrowed by what they had just seen, but for me at least it was just because I didn’t realize the play was over. It didn’t feel over. It felt like the end of the second act. It needed another half an hour, or even just an epilogue; the play needed room to breathe, to develop sub-plotlines. It needs it because although I might have reservations about the character of Florence, anyone can see that it is a good play. It’s well written, moving, thought provoking and relevant. The reason why I’m cross is that it is two thirds of a great play: that’s the play I want to go see.