A Love Letter, inspired by “A Good Death”

Photo credit: Colleen Moore

Presented by Also Known As Theatre
Written by Shelley M. Hobbs
Directed by Alexandra Smith
Produced by Kelly Smith

August 17 through September 2
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00PM
Sundays at 2:00PM
Calderwood Pavilion at Boston Center for the Arts
527 Tremont Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02116
The Stanford Calderwood Pavilion on Facebook

Written by Bishop C. Knight

(South End, Boston, MA)  OOH child, nothing but praise for A Good Death!  I’m about to provide a review that’s emotionally charged with encouragement – for you to see this play and to bring loved ones; especially for you to bring religious relatives you have trouble communicating with.  I’ll use the words love and queer repeatedly, because it is a play about lesbian companions who are platonic life partners.  I’ll show why Boston is damn lucky to have Also Known As Theatre (AKA) as it newest independent theatre company.  I want AKA to flourish. I want Alison Bechdel to attend. I want YOU to attend, and here’s why:

If you like Call Me By Your Name, if you like “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic”, if you also read and enjoyed “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit”, then get your booty to the next performance of A Good Death, which is the creative child of “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit” and StopKiss.  Are you catching all my queer references?  Are you queer and proud of it? Are you a tough Boston dyke who is committed to their chosen family?  If yes to any or all of that, then I repeat once more that you need to get you tush to this new queer play as soon as effing possible.  This plays asks that question, “Who do you love – the most?” It also asks the passive version of that question, which is “Who loves you – the most?”  When you’re queer, the process of realizing that you don’t love in a heteronormative prescriptive way is a really precious process and, along the journey, you become hyper protective of those folks who are your answers to those two questions – because you have to fight a little bit more to love them.

Obviously this play triggered something deeply personal with me.  After speaking with the totally endearing producer Kelly Smith, to whom I gave a big bear hug and heartily congratulated on the theatre’s first and successful night in front of an audience, I scurried to my car with a cup of caffeine in my hand, determined to get home and to write this review before going to bed at midnight.  I want to write this from my heart, with my fingers hammering the keyboard of my laptop. Notes, what are notes, did I even write any? (Yes, of course I did. I’m an ISTJ and can’t resist a long boring list.) But my point is that I want to convey my freshest feelings to you. As an artist always searching for inspiration – in everyone, in every conversation, everyday, everywhere – I cannot remember the last time a theatrical experience offered so much inspiration, so copiously and so honestly.  I am a stimulation junkie – coffee, music, movement, multitasking – so it’s telling when an experience stops me. A Good Death definitely stopped me.  I sat in my car, staring at the steering wheel, not needing any music (which is rare).  And I thought this:

A Good Death deserves a bigger stage and bigger audience.  Because AKA is a new theatre and because this production of A Good Death marked the premiere of the full-length script, it was performed in one of the Pavilion’s smaller theaters.  In fact, it was staged way in the back of East Boob Nowhere. I entered the Pavilion and was directed upstairs, where I was directed to go down the main corridor, and then pointed down a smaller corridor off to my right, and finally told to walk to the very end of this third hallway.  Talk about a scavenger hunt for hidden treasure, but I’m not complaining about the Pavilion’s layout. By the end of A Good Death, it was amusing that a play steeped in so much significance, spirit, mettle and merit was sort of hidden away.  It’s like Barack Obama saying he’s not a recession superhero, or Aretha Franklin demurring that she was not the Queen of Soul.  Let it shine, babycakes, and someone – some queer theatre out there – grab this play and headline it with massive marketing!

Filmmakers and cineastes, you too will enjoy this play, as it was produced and directed in a cinematic way.  The play is about the death of 34-year-old Adrienne, who was killed in a hit and run, but Adrienne is never on stage.  The only two actors on stage were Adrienne’s estranged mom (Marjorie) and Adrienne’s female roommate / significant other (Ruth).  Before her death, Adrienne and Ruth made each other their powers of attorney, and despite Marjorie’s motherly protests, Ruth decides to take Adrienne off of life support.  The last line of the play is Ruth telling Adrienne’s comatose body “I love you.” But not a quick “I love you.” Not that kind of off-handed remark yelped over your shoulder to family members, as you rush out of the house.  Rather, Ruth said “I love you” as a slowly enunciated affirmation, and the kind of affirmation that is as much for you as it is for the other person. To mention another cultural reference, there’s that point at the end of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, when Joel kneels in front of Clementine and whispers “I … love … you”; when we see him realizing “Wait – no – I don’t want to erase her from my heart and life!”  

Similarly, when Ruth ends this play with her vow of love to the deceased Adrienne, realizing there’s a part of herself who doesn’t want to take her girlfriend off of life support.  And to make the play even more poignant, that’s where it ends. At least in Eternal Sunshine we get to witness the reunion of Joel and Clementine, but the audience of A Good Death is left heartbroken due to an irreversible death.  I cried, discreetly wiping my drippy nose on my shirt.  There were two patrons in front of me, and the guy slowly dropped his head onto the girl’s shoulder, before she kissed his forehead and gave him an it’s-okay smile.  The effect of this play was very visceral, more in the way that films are forcefully affecting, and there were other cinematic elements, which were all carried out perfectly.  However, I will leave that for you to discover.

I’ll end my ramble, and please believe that it’s hard to stop myself.  I’ve loads more praise that I could shower onto this new theatre company and their world debut production.  I don’t usually write my reviews in such an unhinged way. So in the name of love, or perhaps because it’s late and that cup of caffeine is wearing off, permit me to say what this play really ignited in me:

The silently thriving and deeply seeded love for you, the Sweet Tree with the best face in the whole wild world.  (shrug+sigh)

Golly.  This play tore open my chest and exposed my heart.  Hadn’t been expecting that. You too will be pleasantly surprised.

Yours True, Bishop

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