When aspiring young actress Tig Kennedy is raped by her would-be producer, she faces a wrenching choice: expose the wrongdoing and turn her back on a promising career in Hollywood? Or brush her trauma under the rug and continue with business as usual?
Eden Theater Company's Complicity, written by Diane Davis and directed by Illana Stein at the New Ohio Theatre, takes a hard look at just what it means to be complicit: specifically, who is complicit in acts of sexual molestation. Is it the women who, without bearing direct responsibility, step aside just long enough to allow it to happen? Is it the friends who, out of concern for a victim's well-being, discourage them from speaking out? Is it the victims themselves who, in exposing wrongdoers, end by unintentionally harming other victims?
It's a crucial topic and a demanding question, and Complicity raises it with sensitive consideration. There's a chilling monologue, delivered by Christian Paxton with heartbreaking immediacy, in which the now president of a rebranded production company reveals how she was raped at age 13. In moments like these, Complicity works extremely well as a piece of socially conscious theatre with a very human heart. The cast works hard to pull this all off, and at times, their efforts are rewarded.
But elsewhere, the play suffers from short scenes and disproportionately large time jumps. We never see the man who actually rapes Tig, nor do we see the lead-up to the incident. After the fact, we're given hardly any time to process before the narrative jumps into the future, where a now famous but emotionally absent Tig attends an awards ceremony. We likewise don't see what happens at that awards ceremony: instead, we get a silent, strobe-lit scene in which Tig appears to completely lose it. Only years later do we get a vague allusion to the event that temporarily ended Tig's career, and even then, we have to piece it together ourselves. Repeatedly throughout the show, many of the crucial moments that reshape Tig's psyche occur offstage, and we have to work to figure out what happened. While part of this may be an understandable attempt to forego triggering scenes, the unfortunate result is a play that often feels abrupt and convoluted, and that lacks the emotional power it might otherwise carry.
Because there's no denying the strength of the cast and the power of the subject matter. Katie Broad in particular shines as she goes from naive ingenue to award-winning movie star, and Nadia Sepsenwol puts in a pathos-filled performance as her supportive but struggling sister. Unfortunately, another by-product of the time skips is that the story seems to take several directions, and by the time they've all wrapped up, it's difficult to parse the threads. At its best, Davis' script is forceful and unremitting in the questions it asks. But perhaps it asks one too many. It's clear we're meant to take something away from the experience of watching this heart-rending drama unfold---it's just not clear what.
'Complicity' runs through October 15 at The New Ohio Theatre (154 Christopher St #1E). For tickets and more info, see the link below: