by Indy Srinath, staff writer
The audience is already captivated as their eyes adjust to the dim light to find two 20ish-year-old males pushing, shoving, and fighting each other across a set that resembles a college graduate type of slovenly one-room apartment. Blood patches their faces, and they argue with bated breath. John Crutchfield stands off stage. This is his play, Solstice, a “volatile drama laced with black comedy.”
In addition to being a creative writing and poetry professor at Warren Wilson College, Crutchfield is an established playwright and director. He has written 12 full-length plays of which six have been produced.
“I write about things that bother me,” says Crutchfield, “and this play came from a moral problem having to do with friendship and what happens to it over time.”
Back on stage, a young woman—a cocaine addicted tenant from downstairs, victim of assault by her drug dealing boyfriend, collapses. The two main actors, Scott Fisher, who plays Carlton, a depressed, hopeless, and obliviously comical young man, and Glenn Reed, a Warren Wilson graduate who plays Eugene, the helpful and slightly misguided best friend, help the young woman to the couch where she collapses in a state of hysterical delirium.
While the play traverses coarse topics including rape, drug addiction, heartbreak, love, and domestic violence, there is a sense of realism and reliability as a result of the colloquialism of the humor heavy dialogue.
“I don’t ever sit down to write a play,” admits Crutchfield. “I journal, I write poems, it’s sort of like I always have a lot of pots on the stove, and I just go with whichever starts cooking first.”
The play, despite having multiple coexisting on-stage dilemmas, exhibits a consistent theme that focuses on memories. The actors are represented as vehicles for memories; their past experiences are what dictate their current behavior. Their histories are why they do cocaine, why their girlfriend won’t call them, why they have problems with commitment, why their present is sub-par.
The performance is metaphor heavy. It is not the type of play in which concepts are written in scarlet ink; the audience must infer and decipher the actions of the characters. This makes the play much more personal as the action is dependent upon the interpretation of the individual.
The play spoke to me through symbolism: a baby doll represented the impermanence of man, a sword symbolized fleeting childhood, the telephone was the conduit between the past and present. The mood is, at times, frustratingly stagnant.
Eugene spends almost the entirety of the play debating whether he should stay in his best friend’s stale apartment to help him through a crisis he is having with his girlfriend who has left him to go on an impromptu road trip or if he should leave to sort through his own problematic life.
The play ends with a special, slow fade on Carlton as he stands in tableau, gun clasped in his left hand and a look of despair shadowing his face. I asked Crutchfield what he would want to say to someone before he or she sees the play for the first time.
He replied, “Don’t be surprised if you’re a little disturbed.”
Solstice runs at the Magnetic Theater in the River Arts District Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm until February 4th. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office for $15.