Dead Wrong


CAVEAT: I am once again touring a one-man show to the Kansas City Fringe Festival, affording me a unique opportunity to review some shows coming to the Minnesota Fringe in earlier stages of development – with the reminder that live theatre changes from performance to performance, and shows may undergo significant alteration from Fringe to Fringe.

ADDITIONAL CAVEAT: Katherine Glover is a prominent member of the Minneapolis storytelling scene, and the two of us have worked together often over the years.

Dead WrongDESCRIPTION: Years after a brutal assault, a young woman grapples with new evidence that suggests she may have sent the wrong man to prison. A solo drama inspired by actual events.

So having followed Katherine’s work as a storyteller, the greatest surprise for me (and the most embarrassing evidence that I obviously often only skim show descriptions) was that this one isn’t really a storytelling show – it’s a dramatic monologue. (i.e., the distinction I’m making here is that she’s not using third-person narrative, but speaking as a character wholly other than herself.)

It’s a bigger leap to make than you might think, and it changes how you work in almost every detail – rhythm, cadence, physicality, pacing, not least of all emotional arc – and for the most part she handles it beautifully. (Credit should also, I suspect, go to the use of a director, Nancy Donoval – another local storyteller who’s worked with similarly-themed material.)

Speaking of which, one of the pleasant surprises of the show for me was that it’s not really *about* the sexual assault: it’s there, it’s the emotional engine that drives most of the initial action, but it’s sketched out quickly and effectively – because ultimately, this is a story about *justice*, and the various other issues that get drawn into that (not least of all one of my personal favorites: the strange, often unsettling ways that time and memory work). And I’m pleased, greatly, with the ambiguity she embraces.

(If I’ve got one point of hesitation, it’s that I occasionally had difficulty following her perspective in the narrative. She seems mostly to be speaking in the past tense, referring to events that happened some time ago. So, for one example, when she describes reading a newspaper article, then says “I feel sick” and runs to the side of the stage – is she recalling that she felt sick at the time? Is she sick at the memory? Reliving her emotional state?

I get that this is the kind of uber-technical thing that probably nobody other than another monologist would obsess over, but I still think it’s a worthy and interesting issue: it’s how we follow her emotional arc through the story, and it occasionally wasn’t clear to me.

The answer I found myself embracing for most of the show was that this was the process of reliving a story emotionally in the retelling of it – which has some nice resonances, I think, with how trauma victims can find themselves constantly reliving their abuse. And I was able to follow this reasoning pretty consistently throughout, only losing it at a few points.)

So – yup. It’s good.