Saturday, July 18, 2015

Home Alone At Age 56: Pat Hart’s New Play, Book Wench, To Premiere In The Strawberry One-Act Festival

By Jenna Doherty

          I have always tended to worry more than I should, but I don’t believe that the considerable number of nights I’ve fallen asleep while considering what I would do if someone broke into my house are that unusual. I keep in mind where all the sharpest objects in my home are located, and have considered many times how I would ideally save myself, my family, and my turtle should someone treacherous enter my home. To be honest, I’ve thought out possible ways to save my companions in a variety of settings. Survival under extraordinary circumstances is something I consider in most places I frequent- meeting spaces, the subway, school, and many more. The scenarios I’ve imagined over the years have seen me through increasingly complex trials, in which I respond to a home invasion with Home Alone level ingenuity and heroism. While I may be too much of a worrier, I don’t think my fears are unfounded. There is an unacceptable amount of violence in America. 

Pat Hart
          Book Wench, Pat Hart’s new play, explores, to paraphrase the author, how violence can occur so randomly, and so unexpectedly, and how someone might react should they find themselves “suddenly in danger”. The play follows a middle aged woman, Margie. She used to be called the “Book Wench” by neighborhood boys because she kept the books at the little league games. She is outside on her porch, smoking a cigarette during a snowstorm, when she is attacked by a young man with a gun. When the young thief turns out to be someone who once played little league baseball with her son, Margie must decide between her maternal instincts and desire to help him and saving her own life. As the playwright describes it, people who perpetrate violence are like sharks and “this is not the shark's story, it's Margie's story. She's the Book Wench, the keeper of stats, the recorder of deeds both good and bad, and when she encounters the shark, she knows him.  Her dilemma is that she sees both the shark and the child, and she has to decide, very quickly, whether to kill the shark or nurture the child and she has to live or die with the decision she makes.”

          Suspenseful, comedic, full of heart, and maybe a little frightening if you already have trouble falling asleep at night, the play unfolds somewhat like one of those questions of ethics from an introductory philosophy class. You know, the sort that
goes like, “You are directing a couple of trains and they are about to crash. You can only save one of the trains. On train A there is a parent who has three young children and a murderer. On train B is the smartest human in the world and a terminally ill person. Which one do you save?” As an audience, we are forced to grapple with the deep unfairness of fate, and the way some of us are born with great potential for a wonderful life, while some are born into seemingly hopeless situations. 

          Furthermore, the play is notable in that it tells the story of a woman over the age of forty. Female playwrights and protagonists are already something of a rare species, but there’s a very valid reason that actresses over thirty are particularly unhappy with the pool of roles available to them. “I don't think there is an awareness of how . . .  invisible a woman becomes after the age of forty,” said Hart in an interview when I asked her about her thoughts about the male dominated nature of theatre (and really, all forms of storytelling).
Meryl Streep, Melissa McCarthy & Kristen Wiig
As a society, it seems as though we are trying to move toward more well-rounded and satisfying female characters in the arts and literature. For instance, Vanity Fair recently declared that “Four Years After Bridesmaids, the Summer of Female Comedy Is Finally Here. What Took So Long?” Hart believes that the best way to diversify the stories we encounter through theatre is simply to “request plays from middle-aged women, and they will write them”. We need to be purposeful in our dramatic consumption and develop an audience and a demand for female artists. Hart’s well written and gripping play is a testament to the need to be looking for theatrical material from a variety of voices. How tragic it would be to miss out on stories like hers. 
          So… does Margie make it through the night of moral turmoil and grave danger? How would you handle such a frightening circumstance? Comment below or tweet us @RiantTheatre, and come see how Pat Hart ties Book Wench together with a satisfying conclusion during Series G of the Strawberry One Act Festival on Sunday, August 9th at 5pm and Wednesday, August 12th at 9pm.

For tickets go to or call the Box Office at 646-623-3488.

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