On December 14th, 2012 Adam Lanza shot and killed 27 people including children, teachers, and himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It was the second deadliest mass-shooting by a single person in U.S history. The events that took place on that December morning have since served as a painful reminder of how everything we hold dear in one moment can be lost in the next without warning or explanation at the hands of a monster.
The sores of this tragedy are still fresh, and ever deepening with each new mass shooting that seems to now have become common place and even worse, expected. There is no shortage of blame every time events like these occur and sometimes there is even empathy for the perpetrators suffering from mental illness but the notion remains, something needs to be done.
After Eleven by Graziella Jackson is a solo show performed by Rebecca Roy as Jude Temper, the single mother of a mentally disturbed young boy named Matty. It is the story of Jude’s uphill battle raising young Matty in a broken system that only exacerbates his problem. Early in the play, a newsreel of the Sandy Hook shooting is played and serves as Matty’s inevitable fate unless Jude can protect him.
Roy brings emotional clarity and depth to Jude. She exhibits strength when she needs it and is vulnerable when that strength is systematically drained from her. What she lacks in emotional maturity to take on such a heavy role, she makes up for in sheer acting ability. Alongside Roy is Director Kate Debelack who makes a lot out of little. With only a scarf and an elevated plane, Debelack makes use of the space in an informed and often clever way.
After Eleven asks the viewer to change and to form a new understanding and demand just and humane treatment for all. It attempts this by revealing a narrative not often seen. We witness Jude’s countless attempts to find normalcy, and see the other side of these “monsters.” Through this perspective, the playwright reveals a system that too often fails those it is meant to protect.
by Graziella Jackson
Directed by Kate Debelack
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However this play has one fatal flaw which is that it fails to really challenge the audience’s viewpoint. It does not stop us in our tracks and force us to go back. It makes us sympathize with Jude, sure, but sympathy can only go so far. Although the play does have us in Jude’s corner, it is admittedly difficult to convince us to change because the victims of Sandy Hook are real. Adam Lanza is real, his mother Nancy Lanza is a real. Jude and her son Matty are not.
That said, After Eleven brings clarity to an issue that is often mired in blame. It forces us to see the other side and find sympathy and maybe even a glimmer of hope.