Monday, May 4, 2009

Jordan Hall's new play 'Kayak': a fun paddle ride through deep waters

Yesterday, I attended a staged-reading of Jordan Hall’s new play Kayak at the Alumnae Theatre.

The one-act play is a brisk, sharply observed tug-of-war between a well-to-do mother and her son’s green-conscious, globally aware girlfriend. As I listened to the story unfold there were moments when I almost felt a blush come over my cheeks in recognition of the character of the mother. Jordan has captured lightning in a bottle with this character. She manipulates, plots and executes her own agenda on her son as only an over-invested mother can, with a smile and a well-crafted naïve stubbornness that aims to kill you with kindness all for your own good, because of course, you just don’t know any better.

The play is a comedic gem with many sparkling moments that sit on top of a strong emotional undercurrent. Both mother and girlfriend have meaty arguments and heated exchanges through out. The play quickly hooked me in with timely observations of life as we face it now in this era of global-warming doom.

It’s a delight to watch how the character of the mother plots out her agenda to win her son over to how his life should really be lived. Jordan's play clearly revealed for me how twisted the mother’s actions are. This was a revelation for me. After all, doesn’t every mother want her son to think her actions are all in the name of love, wanting only the best for her son, even though what she’s actually doing is smothering any chance for him to discover what’s best for himself.

If I had one observation to make it would be that Peter, the character of the son, never really has it out with his mother and gives her a piece of his mind. I feel if this were fleshed out more it would give the play a much deeper resonance. If Peter speaks up he may end up hurting his mother in ways he’s always tried to avoid. Because, when he is finally forced to speak his mind, and damn the consequences, we won’t know our way out of the woods.

Having lived through this dynamic in my life, I wanted to see a real breakdown between the mother-son relationship where Peter becomes self-aware and throws off the years of being passively controlled as a mama’s boy, and stops placating her to keep that identity. He sees for the first time the stunted growth of a life lived accepting someone else’s vision for his own life, and experiences his own uncontainable resentment previously unrecognized. Suddenly, he sees the time he’s lost and the decisions that have been stalled because of it. Though, granted, this is perhaps another play, one I need to write myself…or perhaps, tracking down a good therapist might be the answer.

The fact that my feelings were sparked in such a way is a testament to the strength of Jordan’s characterizations. I felt so invested in the mother that I could feel my own relationship with my mother rush to the forefront and I wanted Peter to fight back.

I found the play to be a very inspiring work. I hope to see a fully realized production. Congratulations, Jordan, on another fine piece of writing. We will miss you as you start your next chapter away on the West Coast.

Visit Jordan's website with the link below:

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