InterAct’s IN A DAUGHTER’S EYES: Haunting and Powerful

by Jack Shaw

(l. to r.:) Lynnette R. Freeman (playing Rehema Salaam) and Krista Apple (playing Kathryn Tinney) in InterAct Theatre Company’s World Premiere production of IN A DAUGHTER’S EYES, a new drama inspired by Philadelphia’s historic Mumia criminal case. Written by A. Zell Williams and directed by Rebecca Wright, IN A DAUGHTER’S EYES runs May 27 – June 19, 2011. Photo by plate 3 photo and courtesy of InterAct Theatre Company.

InterAct Theatre Company’s world premier production of IN A DAUGHTER’S EYES at the Adrienne Theatre was intense, timely and more powerful from one minute to the next. Its subject matter continues to haunt us afterwards, too, hitting very close to home–personally close for some people. Excellent in nearly every way, Rebecca Wright’s production is definitely worth experiencing.

A. Zell Williams’ award-winning script is a well-balanced and thoughtful piece of writing, perfect to show an audience to see what happens when two daughters on opposite sides try to come together for truth and justice. Our emotionally driven, imperfect human nature emerges. Nature isn’t just, and as hard as we try, we fail. Love creates blind spots. Is there a time it’s okay to ignore the truth? Or, shape for our own selfish reasons? Can we even see the truth through a cloud of pain? If there is enough pain or love do we create our own delusions? Our own truth? Is justice blind, biased or simply can’t exist in a sea of emotions?

As advertised, Williams’ play is based on the true story of Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of police officer, Daniel Faulkner, that played out in Philadelphia over three decades. That alone does not make this a play worth seeing.

The ideas expressed here remind us too well of finding injustice and inequality wherever we look as “Salaam” and “Tinney” do here, and have to ask ourselves if we are capable of being fair.  The play is balanced and his characters react as we would, with our thoughts filtered by our perceptions of the truth we know–not the truth we do not. “Salaam” and “Tinney” see what they each want to see in the common ground they have tried to map for themselves until it becomes obvious that their individual versions of truth and justice differ, as do their expectations of each other as well.

Not only was this production moving and edgy, the terrific acting of Lynnette R. Freeman as “Rehema Salaam” and Krista Apple as “Kathryn Tinney” was believable and real. Both were distinct and well-constructed characters. While I couldn’t see a weak moment in the acting anywhere, I did find the “realism” of the stage combat to be lacking. Sometimes you’re better off in the dark imagining what happens. A play this powerful needs powerful actions. I understand the difficulty of making it look and sound like you’re hitting someone on stage–especially in such close quarters with your audience, but it would have made a much stronger finish to the production.

Caitlin Lanoff created a very interesting, practical and realistic set, using what seems to be real walls instead of flats. Lanoff separated the walls in the first Act (I’m not sure why)–except maybe to show this was an earlier, wilder time for our characters, and the walls were put together as our characters are seeking closure of sorts after a figurative and real explosion hits them. But I’m guessing. I am still trying to figure out the artistic reasoning now. Still, it was a nicely appointed set.

Shannon Zura’s sound design also contributed to the “times,” setting the stage, providing an introduction to intensity felt outside the office, but also what was building inside. Maria Shaplin’s lighting design also deserves praise. Using the sound and lights for the explosion worked well.

I found myself really liking Williams’ deep treatment of the subject. This outstanding production only added to my enjoyment. I left the Adrienne Theatre much impressed with production and filled with plenty of ideas to contemplate on the way home. So will you.

by A. Zell Williams
Directed by Rebecca Wright
May 27 – June 19, 2011
InterAct Theatre Company
2030 Sansom Street
Philadelphia PA

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