Dark Days at School

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Review: “Faculty Portrait” at IRT Theater by guest reviewer, Anthony J. Piccione (Mr. Piccione is the lead reviewer on OuterStage)

We live in challenging times. As I write this review, amidst the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, I can’t help but think how depressing it is that so many theaters are currently closed, when its during dark times like these where we need bold theatre that addresses the issues of the day. Sean David Demers’s Faculty Portrait, an exploration of gun violence in schools and how it affects those left behind, is such a brilliant example, and I had the privilege of attending what would ultimately be the last performance in its run, due to the ongoing crisis.

Told in non-chronological order, we see events play out both immediately before, and one year after, a tragic school shooting which claimed the lives of, among others, the romantic partner of one graduating senior & a teacher who was married to one of her surviving colleagues. As the characters interact with one another, the audience witnessed the raw and emotional impact of PTSD that the students and staff, alike, experienced as a result of the losses that were still clearly fresh in their minds, even one whole year after they took place.

Staged in the intimate IRT Theater, Ariel Francoeur’s direction is skillful and – along with the lighting design of Heather Crocker – perfectly captures the subtle yet haunting atmosphere of the post-shooting school. The casting was also very strong. The performances of Russ Cusick and Jessica Nesi, as those who lost loved ones during the massacre, were particularly poignant, and all of them do justice to both the story told in the play, and to the stories of gun victims who were clearly the inspiration behind it.

This play truly deserved a much longer run – and to be seen by more people – than what ultimately happened. I hope that eventually, there will be a revival of this play, as the gun violence epidemic in America is another crisis that isn’t likely to disappear, in the near future. For now, though, I applaud Mr. Demers for his contribution to the conversation on this important issue, and for exploring it in a way that explores the intimate and heartbreaking feeling of loss that so many survivors, and especially those who lose friends and family, feel each time such a tragedy occurs. We need more dramas as bold and honest as this.

FACULTY PORTRAIT

“Faculty Portrait” stars Phoebe Holden, Julie Taxter-Gourlay, Russ Cusick, Shammah “Speed” Waller, Molly Schenkenberger, Jessica Nesi & Rubina Vidal.

“Faculty Portrait” is written by Sean David Demers and directed by Ariel Francoeur, featuring stage manager Shay Thomas, lighting and projection design by Heather Crocker, scenic & properties design by Molly C. Carroll, costume design by Margaret Gorrell, dramaturgy by Fiona Kyle, sound design by Sean DeMers, associate producer Haley Courter, poster design by Ari Craven & publicity by Jay Michaels Arts & Entertainment.

“Faculty Portrait” – presented by Prime Number Productions – ended its run at IRT Theater on March 12th.

 

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