BWW Review: Theatre Synesthesia's THE FAULT is a shining little light in the miserable midst of poverty and addiction.
As described by playwright Katie Bender, THE FAULT (currently produced by Theatre Synesthesia and running at Sky Candy Studios) is about the relationships of sisters living in an itinerant household, how the American dream doesn't apply to the impoverished, and how these impoverished, itinerant people find their way in the world. THE FAULT is indeed all these things. It is also so much more. THE FAULT serves as a macrocosm of a society so addicted to avoiding pain that we are collectively dysfunctional. Simultaneously it's a microcosm of our deepest desire to find meaning and connection in life. That may seem lofty, but rest assured, THE FAULT is quite an approachable piece of theatre. For some, it might resonate so strongly as to be triggering.
This family is struggling. Struggling squared. Star (Chelsea Rhea Andersen) is struggling with what to do with a brilliant mind, growing up, creativity, schooling, her unstable home life, and meth. Star's sister Jane (Rosa Armendariz) is struggling with school, boys, getting into college, pursuing athletics and how to break free from a family that has no idea how to support her in having a normal existence. Angie (Brittany Flurry) is struggling with adulting after her step-father kicked her out of the house for being on meth, which she is still on when she reappears and throws the family into a further tailspin. Sarah (Bridget Farias Gates), their mother, is struggling with what her own life means in the face of poverty, an abusive, unresponsive, immature husband, and keeping her family together. Bill (Jason Graf) is struggling with keeping a job, paying for a home he's not even sure he wants, and some elusive life he keeps chasing and can never catch. This family and their conflicting desires collide and clash. Nevertheless, their faith and love for each other is obvious. If you're familiar with addiction, this family might be yours. This is the complicated dance of co-dependence, addiction, poverty, and the love that dwells in even these bleak circumstances.
Director Devin Finn has chosen a notable cast for this production. Rosa Armendariz plays Jane with a natural ease, Brittany Flurry as Angie juggles the wisdom and protective presence of a beloved older sister with the bitterness and anger of a rejected young adult. Jason Graf shows us Bill's conflict, confusion, charm and love for his girls. Bridget Farias Gates plays Sarah as a matriarch too weak to follow her own convictions or effectively parent her daughters, and it's annoying. And I mean that with the highest of praise. The shining performance in this production, though, goes to Chelsea Rhea Anderson and her work as Star. (Forgive me the pun.) In Anderson's hands, Star is neither a stereotypical fourteen-year-old, nor is she a stereotypical meth addict - and Anderson must play both, when most would do well to play either convincingly. Her manic and attention seeking Star is deeply relatable, evoking both genuine affection and pity from us, and an authentic love from both her protective sisters.
Bender's dialogue is simultaneously rich, poetic, and real, bursting forth most elegantly in the young Star. Bender has captured the tone of addiction and it's gravity on a family as evidenced in the weight with which each character gravitates toward Star. The events as they unfold here are strikingly real; commonplace in fact, if you come from a family afflicted with addiction. The love of family is thankfully obvious in THE FAULT and if there is anything missing in this production, this affection seems to overshadow the resentment so often found in addictive relationships. As this is still a work in progress for Bender, and the this cast is so capable, it is perhaps a tone with which to experiment.
Becoming immersed in this story and these characters is easy, and one might not notice the clever but economical technical aspects this tenacious theatre company employs. Director Devin Finn built the appropriately scrappy set himself. Seemingly utilitarian lights cast the perfect light on the set, and if I didn't know better, I think I saw a re-purposed sound bar in use, hiding just above the house seats stage right. I'm not generally prone to pointing out such matters, but in the Sky Candy Studios, under the devotion of Theatre Synesthesia's young team and this talented cast, THE FAULT is just as enriching, and maybe more so, than if it had been produced with a limitless budget. It's a loving tribute to a messy family and THE FAULT is a shining little light in the misery of poverty and addiction.
by Katie Bender
Produced by Theatre Synesthesia
October 11 - October 27, 2018
Sky Candy Studio
2400 E Cesar Chavez St.
Austin, TX, 78702
October 11th - 27th, 2018 at Sky Candy on Caesar Chavez.
90 minutes, no intermission