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Review: THE LIBRARY at Different Stages

This powerful and timely story is now playing through February 11th, 2024

By: Jan. 27, 2024
Review: THE LIBRARY at Different Stages  Image
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Set in a small town that could be any corner of America, Scott Z. Burns' The Library is a captivating and emotionally charged play that explores the aftermath of a high school shooting. The story centers around Caitlin Gabriel (Lucky Cantu), a survivor left grappling with both physical and emotional scars. As the plot unfolds, Caitlin confronts not only her own survivor's guilt but also contends with a community struggling to make sense of an inexplicable tragedy. The stakes heighten when another survivor accuses Caitlin of guiding the shooter to a closet where many students sought refuge. Faced with skepticism from the media, the church, the police, the town, and even her parents, Caitlin remains resolute in her determination to unveil the truth.  

At its core, the production serves as a searing exploration of trauma, grief, and the relentless pursuit of truth in the aftermath of a devastating event. While the author lightly touches on the politics of gun control, focusing instead on how easily the shooter acquired two of the three weapons used, Burns primarily directs attention toward the human aspect of the tragedy. This approach grants audiences the freedom to form their own opinions while keeping the spotlight on the profound impact of the play.

The narrative skillfully navigates the delicate balance between the survivors' emotional turmoil and broader societal issues, including media sensationalism, religious influence on public opinion, and the relentless quest for justice. Co-directors Carl Gonzales and Lacey Cannon Gonzales, with creative blocking and the use of video screens designed by Lowell Bartholomee, expertly deliver a non-linear narrative structure. This approach, employing flashbacks and multiple perspectives, effectively engages the audience by helping them piece together the events leading up to and following the tragedy.

The characters in The Library are meticulously crafted, each playing a crucial role in unraveling the multifaceted narrative. Lucky Cantu delivers a standout performance as Caitlin Gabriel, the survivor at the center of the story. Cantu captivates audiences with her authenticity and emotional depth, handling the weight of her character's experiences with professionalism and skill.

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Beau Paul, Lucky Cantu, and Eva McQuade in The Library
PC: Different Stages

Liz Waters is sublime as Dawn Sheridan, a mother grappling with the loss of her daughter to an unspeakable tragedy. Her opening scene poignantly captures the universal anguish felt by parents in the United States who have experienced the heart-wrenching uncertainty of not knowing their children's fate after a school shooting.

Eva McQuade's portrayal of Elizabeth Gabriel is outstanding, expertly navigating the conflicting emotions of a mother torn between unconditional support for her child and the pursuit of truth. The ensemble cast, featuring strong emotive performances by Beau Paul as Nolan Gabriel, Stan McDowell as Father, Gina Houston as Detective Washburn/Publisher, and Jason Park as Ryan/Marshall, seamlessly enhances the production with their compelling contributions.

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Liz Waters, Lucky Cantu, and Jason Park in The Library
PC: Different Stages

Different Stages' presentation of The Library is a thought-provoking theatrical experience that navigates challenging subject matter with grace and intelligence. The play's impact is undeniable when theatre goers find themselves rooted in their seats after the final curtain call and are unable to break away. Last night at Different Stages was no exception. Amid tears and whispered conversations, we collectively lingered for a few long moments after the show concluded. In that shared silence, there was an unspoken agreement among us that the play, with its poignant subject matter, compelling narrative, and powerful performances, had struck a communal chord, leaving an indelible mark on each of us.

Duration: 90 minutes, no intermission.


Book by Scott Z. Burns

Directed by Carl Gonzales and Lacey Cannon Gonzales

Different Stages @ Trinity Street Playhouse

First Baptist Church, 4th Floor

901 Trinity Street

Austin, TX 78701


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