Sunday, June 15, 2014

From NBC’s RESURRECTION, the Novel, ROOM to the play, STRANGER WITH A GUN: What’s Love Got To Do With It?

By Catherine Daigle

It’s nearly impossible to avoid hearing about the crime and heartbreak plaguing the world around us. Newscasters speak of murders and war and kidnapping every time they’re on air, Twitter keeps us up to date with tragedies trending around the world, and more. This generation is deeply involved in the traumas of our day, constantly trying to take steps toward a more peaceful world.

In particular, abduction has a recurring presence on the news. We’re always learning of cases such as that of Carlina White and discussing the importance of trauma and loss through conversation and common culture, resulting in books such as Room by Emma Donoghue and NBC’s Resurrection.

But here’s an important question: could these terrible abductions be forgiven and justified if we truly understood the individual motivations for them? Can they be forgiven if we knew of the criminal’s traumatic past?

Carlina White was only 19 days old when she disappeared from her crib in a hospital in Harlem. 23 years later it came to light that Ann Pettway, a woman emotionally wrecked by multiple miscarriages, had kidnapped Carlina and raised her as her own. Can she be forgiven because we sympathize with her previous trauma?

In Room by Emma Donoghue, a child narrates a story of captivity. He and his mother are locked in a small room with no access to the outside world. Readers never learn details about their tormenter, Old Nick, and his past and motivations, but if they did, could he potentially be sympathized with in any capacity?

Stranger with a Gun by Joseph Lizardi, a play selected for the Riant Theatre’s Strawberry One-Act Festival, confronts these fascinating questions. James, a man in his 60s haunted by distant memories, kidnaps a woman, Jenny, at gunpoint, hoping just to talk to her and resolve his haunts. Jenny discovers his motive and forgives his threats, ultimately giving him the closure to continue with his life.

TV shows like NBC’s Resurrection explore the value of closure. When people appear to come back from the dead in a small town in Missouri, the citizens have a hard time wrapping their heads around the miracles. They slowly start to embrace the opportunity given, asking questions and finding conclusions that were previously unattainable. It shows the value of confronting old memories.

Lizardi’s play meets all these ideas head on and encourages us to truly question whether or not abductees and criminals such as James deserve any sympathy. Everything that happens to a person influences their developing identity, so if we examined people’s life paths, would we find reasons to be empathetic towards them even in their darkest hours?

Let us know what you think by commenting below or tweeting us at @rianttheatre.

STRANGER WITH A GUN by Joseph Lizardi, will be performed in the Riant Theatre’s Strawberry One-Act Festival on Sunday, August 24, 2014 at 4pm at the Theatre at St. Clement’s, 423 West 46th Street, NYC.  For tickets go to

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