Something You Did
The old cliché states that actions speak louder than words. That statement, like everything else, is debatable in Something You Did, the dialogue-drenched play by Willy Holtzman currently playing at the 59E59 Theaters.
Allison, played by Joanna Gleason, has been imprisoned for the last thirty years, convicted for the death of a police officer in a political protest bombing. She will soon be facing the parole board, but her prospects are not good. According to her lawyer, Arthur (an amiable performance by Jordan Charney), who is the former law partner of her recently deceased father, Allison’s odds for parole could be greatly increased if she permits testimony on her behalf. The catch is that the testimony would come from Gene, one of Allison’s former fellow protesters (and lovers) from the sixties, who has since become a bestselling journalist and author whose political beliefs strongly resemble Rush Limbaugh’s.
As desperately as Allison wants to rejoin the world, Gene speaking on her behalf would violate her scrupulous principles.(Thirty years after the bombing, she still refuses to name any collaborators, regardless of if they are alive or dead), which become all too apparent as the play progresses. The majority of the script consists of intense discussion and debate between the characters,a force which both drives and delays the script.
In an attempt to elevate her case, Allison meets with Lenora, the daughter of the policeman who died. Played with a fierce intensity by Adriane Lenox, Lenora is unable to forgive or help Allison. SHe is haunted by her own memories of her father, with whom she argued immediately before his death and has no sympathy for Allison.
While the themes of the show are timeless and the dialogue intriguing, Something You Did fails to warrant a true investment from the audience. The characters appear to be more symbolic than humane, representing various aspects of society rather than playing actual people. In a face-off between Glen and Allison, he accuses of her of contributing towards chemical warfare and acts of terrorism, contributing toward the attacks of September 11th. He is a patriot, he says. He loves his country, and she does not. Allison responds fiercely, with a passionate speech of her own. But while the dialogue between the two is thought-provoking, calling into question the current definition of patriotism and what truly loving America is, it remains just that – dialogue. It never solidifies into an actual discourse between two human beings.
Despite the script’s shortcomings, this strong and talented cast does what they can with the laborious dialogue, and Gleason gives a captivating performance as Allison. Her lyrical voice and weighted tone cause the character to become truly sympathetic, and her delivery of Allison’s speech to the parole board is an absorbing and intense moment.
The story is wrapped up nice and neatly – a bit too neatly for a show that explores such vague topics as freedom, patriotism and political and personal honor. It ends on a note of uncertainty, as Allison faces the outside world for the first time in thirty years.
“I don’t know what’s out there,” she says, Well, neither do we.