Writer: Anisa George
Director: Anisa George
Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers
With gun violence becoming an increasingly prevalent issue in American culture, it has become the focus for many theatre companies developing new work. George & Co’s Holden, an exploration into the culture of violence and the trappings of toxic masculinity that simmer below the surface, exists both now and in the past, connecting dots that never overlapped in reality. It imagines Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley, Jr as they live in the shadows of a purgatorial cabin belonging to J.D. Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye.
Joined by the fictional Zev (Matteo Scammell), Hinckley (Scott R. Sheppard) and Chapman (Jaime Maseda) are tied to this temporal place until Salinger (Bill George) publishes new work. As Salinger completes a book, he locks it in a safe. Chapman and Hinckley seem to believe that the publication will result in their release, though the reasoning behind this is murky. Even with knowledge of the author’s and the two assassins’ histories, the consequences of Salinger’s reticence to publish as it applies directly to the specters of the gunmen prove hazy at best.
The cast is strong and deliver compelling performances with fantastic relationships. The humor is dark yet laser-sharp, physical timing is impeccable, and the specificity of intention is clear in both the actors’ performances and the design of the play, particularly Nick Benacerraf’s scenic design. The play is a living, breathing creature that draws the audience in.
The solid technique in both performance and design are undermined by the lack of specificity in the circumstances surrounding the killers’ captivity, leading one to lose connection with the moment at hand to ponder the greater logistics of the conceit. Additionally, the inclusion of Salinger’s young daughter as a character tends to derail the action more than drive it forward. Though Peggy is masterfully played by George Truman, the inclusion of the character in and of itself diminishes the androcentric energy of the piece.
The questions Holden brings to the table are valid, particularly the themes of obsession, mass shootings, masculinity, PTSD, and redemption. However the muddled details of the circumstances of the play’s concept, as well as the inclusion of a tertiary character, detract from the excellence this piece could achieve with more tightening and focus.
Runs until 14 January 2017