Presented by the Legion Theatre Project with Artists’ Theatre of Boston
By Erin Lerch
Directed by Josh Glenn-Kayden
Dramaturgy by Alison Yueming Qu
Intimacy consulting by Alex M. Jacobs
Featuring: Melissa DeJesus, Jordan Palmer, Steve Auger, Michael J Blunt, Chris Everett
September 15-23, 2023
BCA Black Box Theatre
539 Tremont St
Critique by Kitty Drexel
Attendees of Break, Break are asked to remain masked to protect the actors and each other. Masks are generously provided to attendees who forget to bring one.
BOSTON, Mass. — The Legion Theatre Project and the Artists’ Theatre of Boston present Break, Break playing at the Boston Center for the Arts through Sept. 23. Break, Break is a continuation of the Legion Cycle by Erin Lerch.
Recent performances within the science fiction realities of the “unapologetically queer, stubbornly hopeful” The Legion Cycle include Flat Earth Theatre’s reading of Pinch Point in March 2023 and Shrike by Fresh Ink Theatre in January 2022 and 2020. Podcast fans may listen to the Legion Tapes (one of the best projects to come out of the COVID lockdown tragedy. Lemons into Lemonade.) at https://www.thelegiontapes.com/.
Aliens! The time is about now in a place close to here. The Legion have descended upon Earth. As humanity prepares for world peace or world catastrophe, the staff of Western Pennsylvania radio station, WCRP, 103.7, do their best to spread any available news about the invasion.
DJ, Rachel (stalwart Melissa DeJesus) refuses to leave her post at the microphone just in case someone is out there listening. Her boss, Clark (Steve Auger) sets up his Ham radio to connect with his network across the state. They are joined by their silent and strong coworker Red (Michael J Blunt). Rachel’s friend Miranda (Jordan Palmer) needs to get home to Chicago. They are joined by Gwen (Chris Everett), a survivor traveling toward her wife and child.
The five don’t know what will happen. They are running out of food and water. It’s quiet outside and on the radio waves. The internet has shut down. Municipal services have stopped. Should the crew huddle down in the station for safety? Or, do they brave the violent unknown outside? What are they going to do about toilet paper?
Break, Break examines the interaction of active catastrophe against the insecurity of the human mind mid-trauma. Effective communication is key when it is one of the only resources you have left. Hope cannot overcome despair without it.
My bio-father is an amateur Ham radio operator. I remember walking into his office in my PJs as a kid. His fingers were always tap tap tapping Morse code into a dual-paddle telegraph doohicky. He’d spend hours tapping away in that basement office (later a first-floor office with windows) communicating with strangers worldwide while a babysitter played with us quietly somewhere else in the house.
Usually, the Ham radio room’s door was closed. Sometimes it was open. This indicated Dad’s willingness to interact with his own family. It didn’t stay open long. Family was something to shut out, to hide from. Peace, for him, was a closed door and the open (radio) waves.
I never understood Dad’s desire to pass pleasantries with international strangers he’d never met while his own family grew up and away outside his office. Communication devices – be they radios, iPhones, or a string pulled taut between two tin cans – should improve the lives of their users. Not be misused to wedge a wall between persons.
Break, Break’s set design and script gave me new insight into the world of amateur radio operators. First of all, radio offices can be cool. Ben Lieberson’s design includes stickers of sick rock bands, Pez dispensers, and vinyl album covers along the walls. Kelly Smith’s prop design brought back the smell of plywood and the cold, smooth walls of the radio’s metal case. The wood paneling and busted carpet may look like a ’70s bunker that time forgot, but the room has the potential for being a kickass secret hangout.
Second, Ham radios can be a force for good. In Break, Break (code for an emergency), Clark’s radio provides hope to the unlikely team of survivors. The radio confirms the survival of the human race after the Legion descended upon Earth. Connection with other Hams gives the team a reason to keep broadcasting (and to keep ahold of their sanity).
Lurch’s script and the work of the cast grant Break, Break believability. The characters amiably work together when the stakes are low. They break from cordial behavior when the stakes get higher. Antagonism nearly breaks the team apart.
The cast’s commitment to the world of Break, Break is admirable. They are pretending to be locked in a box together. The brain can’t tell the difference between real and pretend. Rehearsals must have been exhausting. The show is in tip-top shape for all of the grueling work they must have done.
NASA made statements as recently as Sept. 14 confirming the existence of UFOs. Aliens aren’t offering free healthcare or making the costs of living affordable. Space Force wouldn’t help us even if they did. The aliens have been quiet so far; Let’s hope they stay that way.