It almost didn’t happen. Playwright Lindsay Ferrentino had written This Flat Earth while on a fellowship at Yale. Then she gave up on it. After a workshop at Washington’s Kennedy Center, it made its’ way to Tim Sanford, artistic director at Playwright’s Horizons, where it is currently playing. Thank God for his smart management and the willingness to give this life.
New York audiences have one more weekend to embrace this once prescient, now crucially relevant show that asks tough, intelligent questions with few clear answers.
“Are you there?!!?”, screams Julie (Ella Kennedy Davis) at the top of the show. She has been jolted from her sleep, triggered by a traumatizing school shooting. Her single-parent father, Dan (Lucas Papaelias)- rushing from the next room- comforts her. But how much comfort and assuredness can one give to another when they themselves are unsure of the solutions to life’s problems?
Grief is the uninvited guest in the nameless seaside town in New England and it has no plans to leave anytime soon. Lisa’s (Cassie Beck) daughter was killed in the school rampage. Her interactions with Julie and her dad are understandably awkward. How does one relate to a parent who has lost a child? How does one empathize when the child left this world in under such violent circumstances? Adding even more layers to this character, Lisa rats
Julie and Dan live beneath Cloris, a senior citizen with a fondness for cello music and a steely, wise demeanor (Lynda Gravatt). Ferrentino has incorporated this oracle-like character to purposefully ground these characters. A particularly profound speech towards the end reminded me of Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women (another knockout show currently on the boards). Cloris delivers a monologue chronicling how Julie’s life will play out.
Tony winner Rebecca Taichman has masterfully directed another powerhouse. It’s impossible not to watch This Flat Earth without the remembrance of Newtown. Of Parkland. Of Columbine. Of Virginia Tech. And on and on. Ferrentino bravely addresses the conversation without being didactic or preachy. Instead, she puts the question back on us, the adults who can choose to end this national blight through better legislation and some common sense. Are we up to the challenge? Are we there?
This Flat Earth. FINAL WEEKEND. Through April 29th @ Playwrights Horizons. 416 W. 42nd Street between 9th and 10th avenue. For tickets and information, click here.