The bottom line
Playing at ACT Theate through May 4, Bethany is a gripping and thought-provoking look at the recent economic crisis that no child younger than mid-teen should ever come anywhere near. Re-animate the grownup, thinking part of your brain with a date night (or friend night) to see this show before it ends. If you have been watching too much Frozen or reading too many fairy tales, race faster than a plunging stock market to see this play.
The down and dirty
Forget missing lunchboxes, unlaundered laundry and messy rooms. Everything you should fear about parenthood — and life in our American culture — is on display in Bethany, a play written by Laura Marks that won a Helen Merrill award.
As much a seething commentary on commercialism, corporate greed and bureaucracy-gone-wrong as it is a (violence-tinged) personal tale of woe, Bethany’s story and characters feel eerily within reach.
Set in early 2009, the story channels the paranoia and dashed hopes of the economic meltdown. Single mom Crystal — played with atavistic, emotional devastation by the riveting Emily Chisholm — lost her house to foreclosure and her daughter to child protection services, and she is trying to strong-arm her job as a car saleswoman into one last, urgently needed paycheck. Crystal becomes entangled in a web of other clawing characters in a surreal tableau of middle-class destruction that climaxes in an unavoidable but shocking conclusion.
When you have a moment to breathe (not until long after you’ve exited the theater) you might ask yourself: Is this realistic — would a person, a parent, really have no one to reach out to, no one to help pull her away from the edge? What of the safety net we all believe is there for us?
Then, think back to 2009, the scores of layoffs, underwater mortgages, families in desperate straits, people trying to save their own hides. This thrilling play might leave you determined to start stacking your pennies and wondering: How many favors are we all away from being alone?
And what, then, of our children?
If you go ...
Where: ACT Theatre Allen Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle
When: Bethany runs through May 4.
Tickets: $55 and up. Purchase tickets online or buy at 206-292-7676