Jeb Kreager, John Zdrojeski, Zoë Winters photo by Joan Marcus
“I am not asking you to emphasize with these characters. I’m representing their positions, with a goal of impartiality. You can do what you want with this access.” Will Arbery on Heroes of the Fourth Turning.
There was a time in this country where you were allowed to have a difference of opinion. That stopped when Obama was elected president. It became intolerable when Hillary didn’t win. In writing my review of Will Arbery’s brilliant Heroes of the Fourth Turning, I’m actually fearful at expressing what I think. I don’t believe in a black and white society, but shades of grey. Each side should be able to have a point of view and be able to be heard and then there should be conversation.
When I entered the theatre I was extremely tired, but Heroes of the Fourth Turning woke me up, made me listen and cheer that maybe, just maybe a conversation had been stared.
In the backyard of his home in the mountains of Wyoming Justin (Jeb Kreager), has just shot a deer. As he kills it, he has reservations and as the show goes on, he can’t erase the blood that is on his porch. Suddenly a loud disturbing noise erupts bringing out Emily (Julia McDermott), a woman crippled by Lyme’s disease, who is just as crippled inside as she is out. For that matter everyone at Justin’s house is. Justin is throwing a party to celebrate the appointment of a beloved professor, Gina Presson (Michele Pawk), to the school’s presidency, who of course is late, so most of the party goers are gone. The school promotes Catholic conservativism and the former students have come from other states to celebrate and are in different places with their beliefs. Enter Kevin (John Zdrojeski), drunk on whiskey and self-loathing, who longs for a girlfriend. His best friend in school was Teresa (Zoë Winters), who is a zealous in her conservative beliefs. She has come because the professor was her favorite.
As the night goes on secrets are revealed and many an audience member will not be prepared to even hear the beliefs in this play, mostly spirited by Teresa who is well put together in a chic white jumpsuit. She states “Oh don’t with the empathy. Liberals are empathy addicts. Empathy, empathy empathy, empathy is empty.” She is against abortion, hates weakness of any kind, especially in men and believes there’s a war coming. Could she be right in this? When her hero hears what she has to state, she proclaims “I feel like a disease”. Sounds like another play this season.
You will feel the loss of identity, the feeling of who we were over what we have been taught and where we are at conflict with each other. There is no sympathy, no answer for the suffering as the disrupted noise just keeps on happening. Justin claims it’s his generator misfiring, but it sounds like the fear of different sides closing in. Of no-one being heard.
All five actors shine, but it is the fearless Winters, who has the toughest role knowing that the audience will hate her just for speaking. Kreager’s Justin is the backbone, McDermott’s shows tenderness masking an intense anger, Pawk is wonderfully condescending and Zdrojeski is the epitome of despair.
Danya Taymor’s direction is haunting, keeping us mostly in the dark. Isabella Byrd’s lighting casts shadows, making it feel as if these people are slowly fading away. Justin Ellington’s sound design is just down right ear shattering.
Arbery’s language is poetic, lyrical, well written and allows another side to be heard. Maybe if it is heard the hate and divided in this country could start to heal.
Arbery’s play is invigorating and is on my must see list.
Heroes of the Fourth Turning: Playwrights Horizons through November 17.