An Illuminating Tale of Grief and Grace: Flashpoint’s NOCTURNE

by Lisa Panzer

NOCTURNE is a tale of grief, guilt, escape and survival as told by a thirty-two year old man who as a teenager involuntarily kills his little sister. Such an incident, specifically set in a American Mid-west suburban “blond” mirage, would seem indescribable, yet the story teller, referred to as the “Son” (Kevin Meehan), pours out, in sometimes surreal detail, his thoughts, feelings and perceptions of his sister’s death, his family’s reactions and rejection of him afterwards, and all of their acute cumulative losses.

Kevin Meehan stars in Flashpoint Theatre Company's production of NOCTURNE, playing at The Adrienne in Philadelphia PA through February 26. (Photo credit: BHPhotos - Photography by Bill Hebert).

At age seventeen, shortly after his sister’s death, the Son, who also refers to himself as “Your Narrator”, runs away to New York City after his father inserts a gun into the Son’s mouth. There he manages to find a job in a used bookstore, and a small shallow place to live, using used books as bricks to build furniture and a life. While literature proves to be a great escape,”Your Narrator” speaks of his unceasing grief as “…a kind of personal weather system. Snow settles in the liver. The bowels grow thick with humidity. Ice congeals in the stomach”. Time passes, he moves up the ranks in the bookstore, writes a novel, meets a girl with lovely grey-green eyes, but his past catches up with him and he is forced to face his estranged ailing father. While the Son has indeed “escaped to survive, to survive to escape”, he nevertheless must journey backwards before he can achieve a state of “recovered peace”.

The piece is packed with gorgeous descriptive words, adjectives, adverbs strung in phrases like pearls. There is not much in the way of stage business, aside from “Your Narrator” reading from a book marked with hot pink post-its, and the occassional shifting of the actor’s position on the stage, but so much is communicated by the cadence of speech, the facial and physical expressions Kevin Meehan displays as the Son. Meehan enters the stage, takes an actor’s moment before making his first statement, “Fifteen years ago I killed my sister”. Though his story is an uncomfortable yarn about an unfathomable feat of fate, “destiny’s poker”, we are captured by Meehan’s every move, as much as by his mesmorizing speech. The roles of “The Father,” “The Mother,” “The Sister,” and “The Red-Headed Girl with the Grey-Green Eyes” are not played by actors, but a real sense of them is invoked by the words used to implant them in our minds.

The set (Christian Pedone) consists of high pale wooden shelves lined with various books, realistically strewn with posters and bits of memorabilia taped here and there. The sound (Daniel Perelstein) and lighting (Thom Weaver) and costuming (Katherine Fritz) are very appropriate to the play’s tone and setting. The overall production demonstrated balance (Meghann Williams, Director, Melanie Leeds, Stage Manager, Katie Pidgeon, Production Manager and Gigi Naglak, Dramaturg).

The theater was packed opening night, and the applause such that Mr. Meehan had to make a return to the stage for a second bow.

by Adam Rapp
directed by Meghann Williams
Flashpoint Theatre Company
Second Stage at the Adrienne
2030 Samson St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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1 comment

anthony john February 11, 2011 - 7:05 pm

Well done review of Nocturne by Lisa Panzer. Desriptive yet interesting in narrative.
I want to see Nocturne after reading this review.


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