Shotgun, written by John Biguenet, and directed by David Karl Lee, is without a doubt the best play I have seen this year. The play was in the intimate Goldman Theater inside the Lowndes Shakespeare Center as part of PlayFest! The Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays. Dennis Neal, who plays Dexter, gave tickets to Mary Hill, his former wife, and I went along to do a sketch.The play takes place in New Orleans after the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. Beau, a white middle class plumber, and his teenage son rent an apartment in a shotgun duplex from Mattie, an African American woman, and her father, Dexter. Dexter is a bit like a black version of Archie Bunker, not liking the idea of renting to white tenants. He is however under his daughters care so he has to toe the line.
The set for this show is fascinating to watch. When a scene switches from the porch to the apartment inside, the walls fold back creating the side walls of the interior room. The first time it happened, I let out an Ooooh, just like I was watching fireworks. This effect became a bit distracting however since the scenes kept switching form the porch to the interior. The most gut-wrenching scene comes about at the end of act one when Beau, played by Rus Blackwell, and Mattie, played by Chantel Jean-Pierre, are sitting at the kitchen table in his apartment sharing a bottle of liquor. Mattie asks him what happened to his wife and he tells the long painful tale of how she died days after the hurricane from injuries she sustained trying to get out of the house from a jagged hole he had cut in the roof using an ax. He sobs uncontrollably since it was his decision to stay in his home. Mattie consoles him. This scene had me in tears.
Love blossoms between Mattie and Beau and this causes racial tensions for both families. Beau's son Eugene, played by Brandon Peters, suddenly lets out a racial slur when he sees Mattie come out of his dad's bedroom. Willie blames his dad for his mom's death and refuses to forgive him. In the end, the racial divide it too great and Beau moves back with his son to the devastated white suburban neighborhood where they start building their life again from scratch. Love does not always triumph.