Published on March 20th, 2013 | by Alison Kjeldgaard0
Inevitable by Jordan Puckett: Ignoring the Ticking Clock
It’s been a long while since I’ve been completely absorbed by a story. I hadn’t come to this realization until seeing Inevitable, Jordan Puckett’s short, brilliant play now at the Un-Scripted Theatre in San Francisco. Many things about Inevitable are surprising: the story itself, which neatly unravels in under an hour; the production’s short rehearsal time, which started just three weeks ago; and the ability of such a young playwright to write so insightfully about growing old and coming face-to-face with debility and death.
Honest, heartbreaking and sometimes funny, Inevitable has a lot going for it: a smart script, great acting, minimalistic stagecraft and a thoroughly captivating story.
Performed by a cast of three, Inevitable takes you inside the mind of Evelyn (Molly Noble) as she attempts to do the impossible: stop time. Time past is embodied by Molly’s younger self and by her German mother (both played by the versatile Carlye Pollack), who haunt the outskirts of the stage, as though imitating the tick-tock of the clocks that hang from the ceiling and around Evelyn’s neck. Meanwhile, Evelyn and her family — rational husband Carl (Keith Burkland) and daughter Rene (also Pollack) — oscillate between clinging together and falling apart. As the story unravels, Evelyn reveals that she has been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, and preventing what is the inevitable becomes an urgent task for all members of the family.
Inevitable officially opened March 2 on the small stage of the Un-Scripted Theatre, launching the third season of the San Francisco Playhouse’s Sandbox Series. Limited seating, a simple set design (table, chairs, shelf) and lack of curtains made the performance that much more intimate; the cast even prepared for their performance in front of early attendees, some quietly flipping through highlighted scripts, whispering lines or doing last minute breathing exercises.
Perhaps this sort of venue wouldn’t work for larger productions that rely more heavily on theatricals; however, minimal worked well for Inevitable. It quickly became apparent that the story could carry itself without things like set changes or music.
This sort of small-budget production is exactly what the Sandbox Series is all about: bringing strong scripts to the forefront without paying exorbitant production costs. Discovering new talent like Puckett, who started as an intern at the Playhouse a mere two years ago, is also part of the mission.
“If theater is to continue to be a part of our culture and thrive into the future, it is essential to develop new voices,” founder Bill English said in an interview with the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
Puckett’s fine writing succeeds through the careful orchestration of director Lauren English and the work of a seasoned cast. Noble, who has performed with companies across the country, is simply a brilliant performer; in the final scene, she transforms within seconds into a person suffering severely from Huntington’s. Burkland (who later told me that he spent all day in rehearsals for Inevitable and another upcoming performance), has a natural ease onstage that infused the characters’ relationships with honesty and warmth.
Raw and intensely honest, Inevitable is really about how we all ask big questions that do not have answers, and how we all choose to ignore the ticking clock, refusing to accept the ultimate end. I eagerly look forward to the next production from the Sandbox Series, which is sure to quench my thirst for a fresh and engaging performance.
See Inevitable at the Un-Scripted Theatre until March 23. For more information, visit www.sfplayhouse.org.