Whether we like it or not, the events of September 11th, 2001, are a permanent part of our cultural consciousness. That date, unlike any other in recent history, represents the sharpest division in our timeline – the way things were before, and the way they’ve been since. Indeed, the subject is so charged with inchoate emotion and unutterable loss that few attempts to quantify it artistically have succeeded. Hollywood’s Theater of NOTE, however, has again proven itself a major force in urban storytelling with what may stand among the most impressive theatrical responses to 9/11. Shake, the new play from scribe Joshua Fardon, offers that most elusive and precious balm – human truth.
In August of 2002, Bill (Joe Egender) encounters his erstwhile lover Peggy (Alina Phelan) on a street in Manhattan. Their tentative reunion soon reveals that Peggy’s life is in tatters – after planting a cherry bomb in her acting coach’s mailbox and getting evicted from her apartment, she now lives homeless in the park. Bill, exhausted and jittery, is looking for his former AA buddy who has recently vanished. From there the play moves backward, gradually revealing in twelve mini acts (one for each month) the events that lead up to the first scene. The final act, titled “September 10, 2001,” is the most poignant of all, as we already know where the characters will be a year later.
Shake doesn’t tell the story of 9/11 through the eyes of selfless heroes. The men and women we follow are deeply flawed, troubled, and self-destructive. But their humanity, with all its concomitant warts and missteps, is the very thing we need to make sense of our own pain. Masterful direction and an extraordinary cast further propel the production into a wholly rewarding theater-going experience. An essential addition to this summer’s calendar.
Shake, by Joshua Fardon; dir: Kiff Scholl, with Troy Blendell, Hiwa Bourne, Alina Phelan. Runs from July 30 – Sept. 5, Fri/Sat 8:00 p.m.; Sun 7:00 p.m. Admission: $18 students/seniors; $22 adults. Theater of NOTE is located at 1517 N. Cahuenga, Hollywood 90028 and can be reached at (323) 856-8611 or by visiting. www.theaterofnote.com.