Theater Review: Domestic-Violence Drama The Traditionalists Leaves Us Wanting More—But Not in a Good Way | Arts
Arts
INDY Week's arts blog

Archives | RSS | Follow on

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Theater Review: Domestic-Violence Drama The Traditionalists Leaves Us Wanting More—But Not in a Good Way

Posted by on Wed, Aug 10, 2016 at 2:46 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL
  • photo courtesy of Women's Theatre Festival
The Traditionalists
★★
Through Aug. 14
Women’s Theatre Festival
@ Umstead Park United Church of Christ


I am an adult survivor of domestic violence. I still have the pistol my father used one night to threaten my mother’s life and my own. I keep that firearm, which is now unable to menace or injure anyone else, because people regularly doubt, discount, and second-guess accounts of domestic abuse. Evidence, I’ve learned, is important. The gun was in his hand.

I can vouch for the authenticity of the damage depicted in Carol Torian’s one-act, The Traditionalists, part of the Women’s Theatre Festival’s first evening of fully-staged shows. I can also attest to actor Douglas Lally’s emotional velocity as unstable husband Nicholas in Pam McClure’s first outing as a director. It fully justifies a trigger warning for those who have experienced similar cruelty.

As this two-hander unfolds, a dinner table gradually becomes a gantlet—a staging ground for Nicholas’s contempt for and uncurbed domination of his wife, Tenille (Elaine Quagliata), and a checkpoint to inspect and interrogate her compliance with previous directives. An opening attempt at small talk launches Nicholas’s disproportionate response—a detailed, unsatisfactory performance evaluation of Tenille's housekeeping, cooking, child-rearing, and sexual duties.

As we watch, Nicholas morphs from husband to drill instructor to jailor, reinforcing Tenille’s economic, social, and eventually physical incarceration, listening closely in order to quash any wayward hint of self-definition or self-worth.

Torian has clearly written a truly harrowing scene. But at this point, it is not a play. Her script effectively places us in an abusive relationship in an upper-middle-class household. But drama confronts us with the truth of a life in a change—and change is what is lacking at this stage in The Traditionalists’ development.

The single scene here pressurizes matters as Nicholas limits Tenille’s agency and mobility throughout their meal. As a strategy for a first act, that could presage further plot developments and an actual dramatic arc. However, Torian leaves things here before either can develop; when she convinces us that such abuse has gone on for years in this house, we never see why this night is different from all other nights.

Plus, in depicting only the abuse in an abusive relationship, Torian neglects the other, crucial dynamics that have formed the bond and continue to reinforce it, making it much harder for either party to break away. In their absence, her characters remain relatively two-dimensional—demonized or traumatized—with scant evidence to support either’s long-term commitment, and little beyond one-sided physical coercion compelling either to stay.

More development could expand and deepen the playwright’s exploration of this relationship. But when the fundamental situation and relationship dynamic is clearly stated, and then remains unchallenged and unchanged, The Traditionalists presents and leaves us with the status quo instead of drama.

Tags: , , , ,

Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Arts



Twitter Activity

Comments

I agree that the vocal work is incredible! And, I thought that the well-made and beautifully-designed set really supported the …

by Judy Dove on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

In the last 5 years, 11 of the 15 musicals NRACT produced were premieres in the region. I commend them …

by James Ilsley on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

Most Recent Comments

I agree that the vocal work is incredible! And, I thought that the well-made and beautifully-designed set really supported the …

by Judy Dove on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

In the last 5 years, 11 of the 15 musicals NRACT produced were premieres in the region. I commend them …

by James Ilsley on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

Instead of luxury apartments(AHEM Carborro) and new restaurants, build more parking?!(Just one parking garage would help a lot, cover it …

by ammi on The Bookshop Brought Many Rare and First Editions—and Two Famous Cats—to Franklin Street for Thirty-Two Years (Arts)

WELCOME TO THE GREAT BROTHERHOOD.
Do you want to be a member of Illuminati as a brotherhood that will make …

by peter bello on Movie Review: A Dog's Purpose Rolls Over and Plays Dead Under Its Own Heart-Tugging Weight (Arts)

The last thing Chapel Hill needs is another damn restaurant.

by Chrysser on The Bookshop Brought Many Rare and First Editions—and Two Famous Cats—to Franklin Street for Thirty-Two Years (Arts)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation