BWW Reviews: OST's PLUTO Explores the Depths of Communication Failure
Very rarely does a play leave you visibly shaking. Orlando Shakes' Harriett's New Play Series piece PLUTO explores the taboo subject of a mass shooting perpetrator's psyche and difficulty of accepting change. The material is heavy, but incredibly thought provoking and profoundly moving.
Written by Steve Yockey, PLUTO centers around the broken relationship between mother and son. Some strange things happen revealing that today is no ordinary day. For instance, there's a three-headed dog in their kitchen, time seems to be stuck at 9:30 AM, and the refrigerator shakes a lot. Mother and son are damaged by lack of communication and human connection. On this day, mother tries to get her son to have a conversation. To the audience, he is clearly angry, but no angrier than an average teenager.
The scary part is that the angry teen could be apart of family. We all have that awkward and aloof family member. His name is Bailey and for whatever reason his life has gotten to the point where he no longer feels regular emotion. PLUTO explores what happen in the family's past that may have lead to his outburst. Was it the death of his father when Bailey was young? Is he genetically pre-disposed towards violent behavior? Or was it society pushing him into isolation? The simple answer is that all of it contributes to how a person feels and interacts with society. PLUTO's message is clear; communication here and now is key before it is too late.
To adequately perform this serious topic the cast needed to commit to the material and they did not fail to deliver. Chris Metz plays Bailey, the angry teen, who shifts between childish behavior like whining about the flavor of Pop Tarts, and semi-adult issues like studying for college astronomy. It is clear that Bailey is a product of his mother. The role must be difficult to play. Metz's character responds to hurt with believable anger. He is also excruciatingly vulnerable to the cruelness of society. It is easy to sympathize with the character, but at the same time knowing that his actions are unforgivably wrong.
Suzanne O'Donnell plays Elizabeth, Bailey's mother. She seems like an average overworked underappreciated single mother who just wants a normal moment with her normal son. Denial is a very powerful emotion and it seeps out of every aspect of O'Donnell's performance. You can't blame the mother for her son's actions, but she contributes to his loneliness. The heartache of emotions displayed by O'Donnell is like a rollercoaster that can't be stopped. It is amazing, yet heartbreaking.
PLUTO tells us to communicate before it is too late. To really listen, no matter how trivial. There is also a sense of hope that life will continue even after tragedy, however sad and slow it may take to heal.
Despite the dark tone of PLUTO it is filled with some laughs. Scenes involving the talking dog, Cerberus, played in human form by Heather Leonardi. If my dog could talk, she would be as quick witted, and as sarcastic as Leonardi. Taken from the Greek mythology dog who guards the Underworld, Cerberus adds needed clarity to the stranger scenes.
Photo credit: Tony Firriolo