Monday, April 28, 2008

Play of the Week for April 22, 2008: AFTER ASHLEY

After Ashley by Gina Gionfriddo

Typically, there are three human responses to a traumatic event: Fight, flight or freeze. In post-9.11 America, there are more lucrative options. After Ashley, Gina Gionfriddo’s hilarious and keenly intelligent play, follows the fate of one family struck by violent crime—a witty and prematurely wise teenager, Justin, his kind of lost and messed-up mother Ashley, and his father Alden, an earnest, bleeding heart liberal journalist.

Ashley, struggling with her husband, her job and her students, takes Justin’s advice to get out of the house and do something new. Not long after, a recording is heard of Justin making a frantic call to 911. His mother’s been brutally murdered by the homeless man his father hired to do the lawnwork.

Three years later, as his father writes a bestseller about his martyred wife and lands a TV show, Justin lives with a fake ID in bitter, lonely exile somewhere in central Florida. When Julie, a pretty, intelligent co-ed picks Justin up in a bar, he’s hostile and contemptuous. But through his connection to her, he finally confesses his own guilt about his mother’s death and reveals the darker side of Ashley, caught on video tape. Finally given the chance to bring down his father’s empire of lies, Justin resorts to deception, blackmail, and degradation; he believes he must destroy his mother in order to save her.

Gionfriddo’s ambiguous ending leaves us to crawl out of the rubble on our own. She raises serious questions about the way we live in the aftermath of trauma, the dubious powers of language, memory, and meaning when tragedy becomes a cultural cliché and a growth industry. As for that old devil truth—it’s a noun that can seldom be trusted when used in the singular.

Scenes/Monologues: Great scenes for a young man & young woman (late teens), young man and woman in her mid-thirties.

Full-length play: Dark Comedy.
Cast: 4 men, 2 women. Setting: Unit Set.
Acting Edition, 2007. $7.50

Recommended by: Helen

Order After Ashley now

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