BWW Review: WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU Debuts at The Sheen Center
The Off-Broadway play When It Happens to You recently debuted at The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture in New York City, and was awarded with a standing ovation for good reason. Written by the novelist Tawni O'Dell (Angels Burning), the play resolves around a mother trying to handle the rape of her daughter. But this not just any mother. And this is not just any daughter. This is O'Dell's own story about the sexual assault against her daughter, Tirzah (Kelly Swint) and how it impacted the entire family, right down to their two pets.
During the opening scene, O'Dell comes on the stage and states she is not an actor, she is a writer. She goes on to explain to the audience that what they are about to witness is her own life story performed on stage. We begin with the dreaded late-night call no mother wants to get. Her daughter is on the other line crying. A a man broke into her New York City apartment and viciously attacked her. The story then takes the audience on O'Dell's journey of talking to the detective (E. Clayton Cornelious) that led the investigation and arrest of the perpetrator, to trying to protect her son Connor (Connor Lawrence) by pushing him away to school, all while desperate to helping her daughter regain her self-worth. But as the story unfolds, we see the impact of sexual assault is like a tumor. It grows bigger and bigger over time no matter how hard you try to keep it contained.
When It Happens to You is an emotionally-charged, heartbreaking play that everyone should see. While it centers around a family drama, even more so around a mother and daughter relationship, it also brings awareness to sexual assault against women, which O'Dell calls an "epidemic." It is about redemption, yes, and about a mother's love, but it's also about courage and strength, and the secrets we keep to protect those around us.
When It Happens to You runs from now until November 10th at The Sheen Center.