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To Quiet the Quiet, Dark Drama at the BPP

David Wade's first set for To Quiet the Quiet

David Wade's set before it opens to the brightly lit kitchen (Bloomington Playwrights Project)

I’m George Walker

To Quiet the Quiet is in the Ted Jones Playhouse of the Bloomington Playwrights Project. Christ Hall’s play is this year’s Newman/Woodward drama award winner.

It’s a wonderfully twisted dark play with a snappy short story “aha” ending that took me right back through the play with those details that were all in plain sight and that I should have picked up on.

As the lights come up on David Wades’ set, there’s a room with a small square table and a couple of simple straight backed chairs lit by a single overhead bulb. On the left, close to us is a coat tree and a little further back is a screen door. Scott Van Wye, IU and Cardinal Stage Company star is Quinn. He’s coaching Priscilla Barnes, from Jane the Virgin, this show’s Kathy. He’s hectoring the confused woman on the details of a story about a dinner. Her guest. David Anspaugh, of Rudy and Hoosiers fame was Kathy’s former husband Todd. Anspaugh is acting and directing To Quiet the Quiet.

Quinn is clearly frustrated with Kathy’s answers, pacing about, lighting cigarette after cigarette and going over and over the actual facts and the story they’re concocting. I was a bit surprised by his level of anger. Sometimes as with a dinner salad preparation he wanted the facts, sometimes as with the actual welcome he wanted a plausible story. Over and over he had her repeat the sequence, always threatening that he would not be there when others asked for her account.

The obedient Kathy is a difficult student. Sometimes she gets thing right, sometimes as in the order of salad preparation she get them wrong and there’s not really any rhyme or logical reason for her successes or her mistakes. Quinn was her younger next door neighbor growing up and when he totally gives up, Kathy pull out all the stops and tells him that his mother wouldn’t like his leaving. It’s back between the two of them with Kathy eventually totally losing it and needed to chew on a towel and take deep breaths to get back in control.

Although David Wade’s set and lighting have been quite plain there are ups and downs around the raised stage and throughout there’s an almost surrealistic aspect as Quinn stalks about and up and down and even Kathy takes her turn through the spaces. There’s more to the set though and all of a sudden the back stage area is cleared to reveal a brightly lit full kitchen.  In a flash back to an earlier time Quinn disappears while Kathy has a chicken in the oven and is chopping vegetables for that salad we mentioned.

David Anspaugh as Kathy’s former husband Todd comes for what he plans to be a quick visit while Kathy has in mind a dinner. Todd is warmly but warily concerned and wants to keep his distance. We learn, that Todd has a steady girlfriend and that there are legal questions about Kathy’s condition and her future independence.  In the fraught conversation that follows there’s a powerfully detailed and mysterious story of a long ago daughter, her birth, brief life and the breakdown and struggle that Todd and Kathy went through.

This leads to a surprising, explosive moment that starkly explains everything about the story that Quinn was working with Kathy to fabricate. Then there was that ‘aha’ ending and I was left to wend my way back through the drama as I drove home.

Christy Hall’s To Quiet the Quiet with David Anspaugh, Priscilla Barnes and Scott Van Wye at the Bloomington Playwrights Project plays through the 25th.

At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker

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