BWW Review: WEEP from Nu Sass Productions at Caos On F
Walking into the Nu Sass world premiere "Weep" is like stepping into the living and work space of its characters.
Take a seat on one side or the other of the upstairs art space Caos on F and you're amid the living room of a public defense lawyer (Carolyn Kashner) at one end and at the other, in the visiting room of the jail where she visits her biggest client yet (Boneza Valdez Hanchock), a mother charged with killing her two children 13 and 6.
Even as the two women eye each other warily, into the mix comes a podcaster (Pauline Lamb) looking for a meaty story for the next season of her show, "Crossroads: The Intersection of Mythology and Reality."
Her notion is that mothers who kill, or perform filicide, as they call it, are a misunderstood group with roots going back to Medea.
It's a tough sell, but playwright Amanda Zietler has a lot of ideas to stuff into the play, dealing with motherhood, impending motherhood, abortion as well as the usual race, class and gender issues, the latter of which she finds at home - the attorney's husband (Drew Cannady) wants her to lay off tough cases and start a family.
But the play also has a forward propulsion from its straight-up procedural action.
"Weep" has been a work in progress for eight years, according to Nu Sass artistic director Aubri O'Connor (whose credits for the current production include set, props, costumes and house management). And it has the feel of a piece that's been worked over a bit.
Zietler first wrote it during her first year of graduate school, when it was known as "La Llorona," after the legend of the woman who drowns her children in a lake and haunts the Earth ever after. It had that title, which roughly translates to "the weeping woman." when Nu Sass presented it at the Capital Fringe Festival in 2014.
The podcaster is an apparently new addition to the production, which gives it a modern sheen in a time when everybody has a podcast (or at least listens to one). And while it provides the opportunity for a character to bring historical context, it's a little odd that someone with a popular podcast wouldn't invest in an actual microphone to record it (as it is, she only uses headphones and a standard smartphone).
Director Bess Kaye gets a lot out of the cast. Kashner is a strong and convincing career woman; Valdez Hanchock a snarling force, and Lamb a level mediating factor between them. Cannady has the thankless job as the husband, a former law professor who mostly lounges around the house and strangely doesn't understand how important the big case is for his wife.
The impact of their performances are, of course, enhanced by the proximity the action is is to the audience.
As absorbing as the story is, it's a little startling when it all ends rather abruptly. Maybe they will finesse an easier landing in its next iteration.
Running time: 75 minutes, no intermission.
Photo credit: Pauline Lamb, Carolyn Kashner and Boneza Valdez Hanchock. Photo by Aubri O'Connor.
"Weep" by Nu Sass Productions runs through March 14 at Caos at F, 923 F St NW, Washington D.C. Tickets at 315-783-6650 or online.