Bring Us The Head Of Your Daughter
nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
April 3, 2011
Fame is the most dangerous weapon of all. Just ask Garance Springs, the 18-year-old cannibal at the center of Derek Ahonen’s newest play for The Amoralists, Bring Us the Head of Your Daughter.
Garance has been traveling through small-town America, killing housewives and eating them. Her parents, an African American painter named Contessa and a Caucasian Jewish alcoholic named Jackie, are appropriately devastated. While Contessa struggles, and has struggled, to maintain control, Jackie is drinking herself more and more to death, constantly threatening suicide in any number of horrible ways if Contessa withholds affection. Or a glass for the whiskey.
Bogged down with as many long pauses and silences as Pinter play, Daughter, which is also directed by Ahonen, flounders in its last third, when word of a potential government conspiracy is brought to light. Anything leading to this plot point, as alluded to in program notes by artistic director James Kautz, seems to have largely been removed during the rehearsal process. Said conspiracy changes the course of everything that’s previously happened and is significantly detrimental to the play’s main focus, the central love story between two women who feed off one another (not literally) to survive. As excellent as the actors are, director Ahonen doesn’t guide them enough to play this tonal shift believably. One gets the impression that Ahonen (playwright) lost himself dramaturgically and, along with personal crises also alluded to in program notes, it negatively affected his work as director.
Love is the only thing that would keep the very oddly matched Contessa and Jackie together. Mara Lileas is appropriately stoic and centered as Contessa, while Anna Stromberg infuses Jackie with enough petulance and manipulative, childlike behavior to drive even the strongest person away. Sarah Roy is extra-convincing as the sociopath Garance and Jordan Tisdale sinks his teeth deep into Contessa’s estranged brother Dexel. The production is realistically designed by Alfred Schatz (set), Ricky Lang (costumes), Jeremy Pape (lighting), and Brian Lazuras (sound).
Bring Us the Head of Your Daughter has a lot of heart. Ahonen has some fascinating things to say about love, conventional and unconventional, and fame. It just diverges too far from this path. A play that could have a lot of power ends up laying there like a dead housewife.