BWW Reviews: ONE IN THE CHAMBER Plays at Mead Theatre Lab

By: Aug. 11, 2015

In the wake of the tragedies at Sandy Hook, Aurora, or Charleston, the issue of gun violence is a hot button issue. But one growing demographic gets over looked: accidental shootings that result in the death of a child. According to the gun safety lobbyist, Everytown for Gun Safety, "from December 2012 to December 2013, at least 100 children were killed in unintentional shootings." Out of this, about two-thirds take place in the victim's home or vehicle.

One In The Chamber, being presented at the Mead Theatre Lab, does attempt to politicize this issue, or attempt to come to a resolution. Rather, the play (first produced last fall in Los Angeles), shows the aftermath of one of these families in a raw and gritty production.

The play, written by Marja-Lewis Ryan, looks at this family, six years after 10-year old Adam, accidentally shot 9-year old Joey. In the years between every family has learned to grieve in their own way. Adam says in the play, "There are 2 families, the one I was born into and the one I destroyed" is an apt way to describe the sentiment involved. Ryan's script expertly shows each family member's grief while being interviewed by Jennifer, a social worker coming to investigate whether Adam is ready to become a member of the society.

Producer Liz Osborne stars as Jennifer, the social worker who interacts with each member of the family, is wonderful as the young social worker who did not realize what an impact the family would have on her. Equally as solid is Dwight Tolar, the father who emotionally distances himself from his family. Tolar's performance, in particular, is very strong. You can see in his eyes his immense love for his family, yet wanting to be distant.

The two daughters, 7-year old Ruthie, and 17-year old Kaylee, are both dealing in different ways. Ruthie, played by Grace Doughty, was only a baby when it happened, so as Kaylee puts it, "this is all she knows." Danielle Bourgeois, as Kaylee, is sharp as the rebellious teenager, who is hurting just as much as the rest.

The two standouts in the show are Noah Chiet as Adam, and Adrienne Nelson as the mom, Helen. Both are superb in their portrayal. Chiet's performance is small and nuanced, perfect for Adam. Chiet portrays a sense of emptiness and hurt that is truly remarkable. Nelson, who is also a producer, is a stalwart in the very capable cast. Helen is a difficult role who goes through a myriad of emotions in the 70-minute piece. Adam describes his mom as "ordinary, not normal". Nelson's performance of "ordinary" (and very much still grieving) is the highlight of the show.

Director Michael Piazza does a remarkable job in the small space and has some great moments, particularly between Jennifer and Adam. Without spoiling this dramatic scene, Piazza nails the intensity without overly choreographing.

The entire piece is thought provoking without being political. There is a hot button issue at hand, but the play does not try to make you "take a side", only show the impact one action can have on a family. The ripple effect of one decision can alter a course, and One In The Chamber achieves this with great success.

One In The Chamber plays through September 6, 2015 at the Mead Theatre Lab, 916 G St NW
Washington, DC 20001.

Box Office: Available online.

Photo Credits: Ian Armstrong and Noah Chiet


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