In the first scene of the play we meet Ben (Jeff Miller) and Amanda (Maretta Zilic), who are enjoying life in the rural small town they moved to five years ago, although Ben more so than Amanda. The seemingly idyllic life, which includes Ben's buddy Joe (Mike Novak) from the factory, is disrupted with the arrival of community organizer Liam (Carey Morton), who has come from the city to help convince people to vote. It's no spoiler to say that Ben is charged with the murder of Joe; it's revealed in the first few minutes of the play. We see Ben on the stand, being questioned about his relationship with Joe, and Liam, and the events leading up to the shooting. We then watch the events play out. We know the sad ending of this tale, the play is about how these characters got to that point of violence, and what, if anything, could have prevented it.
|Ben (Jeff Miller) and Amanda (Maretta Zilic) on their porch|
(photo courtesy of Uprising)
All of these characters, brought to life with depth and humanity by the cast, feel empathetic at times and frustrating at other times, just like real people. The story plays out in a couple of locations represented by the rustic set (designed by Maggie Mae Sulentic, who also choreographed the realistic fight scenes) - Ben and Amanda's porch, the local bar, and a deer stand / witness stand. Thanks to the script, the performances, and director Emily England, the story feels grounded and real, and the intimate black box space gets us almost uncomfortably close to the tragic events of the play.
Uprising Theatre has been doing some great and important work this year. I admire how they partner with community organizations, host post-show discussions, and otherwise strive for their work to continue beyond just the performance space. I'm looking forward to seeing what they bring us next year. In the meantime, head to Off-Leash Art Box in South Minneapolis to witness theater in action.