Loyola’s Production “Domestic” Examines Current Issues Through Time

Courtesy of Emma PetersenLexi James and David Taylor portray a husband and wife in a toxic relationship in Lauren Gunderson’s “Exit, Pursued by a Bear.”

Domestic violence is at the center of a new play from Loyola’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts (DFPA). “Domestic: 3 Works by Women” opened Oct. 5 and is an anthology of three one-act plays written by women.

The show features “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell, “Poof!” by Lynn Nottage and “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” by Lauren Gunderson. Each play tells a story about domestic violence from the victim’s perspective, and audiences don’t hear from an abuser until the final play.

“Domestic: 3 Works by Women” was shown at Loyola’s underground theater in the Mundelein Center for Fine and Performing Arts (1020 W. Sheridan Road). The theater is set up so audience members surround the performance; the close proximity makes watching the play a more intimate experience.

The first two plays take place in the past, and the final in the present.

The show opens with “Trifles,” taking place in 1916 following the death of a neighborhood man. John Wright was killed and his wife, Minnie, is a suspect. The couple’s friends Mr. and Mrs. Peters (Alejandro Shydlowski and Cameron Sheppard), Mr. and Mrs. Hale (Luca Calabro and Adelaide Johnson) and a local authority (Nicholas Clatch) visit the Wright’s home to investigate.

While the men in the group are busy looking for evidence, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale sift through Minnie’s things and uncover revealing belongings, including an empty canary cage. The two women discussed the Wrights’ home life and grappled with feelings of regret wondering how they could’ve better helped Minnie.

Although “Trifles” takes place more than a century ago, the women’s reflections about Minnie Wright are still present today. Mrs. Hale was especially remorseful because she didn’t visit Minne often. Support from friends and family is important for victims of domestic violence, and noticing the signs of it can help, according to The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

“Poof!” takes place decades later in 1992 in the South Side of Chicago. It starts out explosively during a domestic dispute between a husband and wife. Loreen’s (Nami Alemayahu) husband abruptly disappears and is reduced to a pile of powder and a wiry pair of glasses. Loreen is left to process her sudden exit from an abusive life; however, she’s not alone, and she talks through the situation with her comical friend, Florence (Imari Potts).

Courtesy of Emma PetersenNami Alemayahu and Imari Potts perform in “Poof!” by Lynn Nottage. The play takes place after a woman’s abusive husband literally disappears into thin air.

The final act brings audiences to the present day with “Exit, Pursued by a Bear.” “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” shows a unique confrontation toward an abuser. Nan (Lexi James) performs reenactments of her tumultuous relationship to addresses her husband Kyle (David Taylor) in Georgia. Kyle is bound and left unable to speak as he watches Nan and her friends, Sweetheart (Lizzie Williams) and Simon (Andrew Flynn), perform.

“Exit, Pursued by a Bear” is the only play where audiences get to hear from the abuser as well as the victim. Although some of the humor was corny, “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” still sent important messages about supporting victims.

Courtesy of Emma PetersenCameron Sheppard performed as Mrs. Peters in the play “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell. Courtesy of Emma Petersen

Director and chairperson of Loyola’s DFPA Sarah Gabel said she wanted viewers to leave the show with a better understanding about the emotional nuances surrounding domestic violence.

“I’m hoping that audiences will have experienced empathy for the victims and will maybe contemplate and have more understanding of how [a victim] got there and perhaps will be able to recognize it in others and extend a hand,” Gabel said.

“Domestic: 3 Works by Women” focused on female victims, but domestic violence impacts all genders. An average of 25 percent of women and 11 percent of men are affected by domestic violence nationally, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). Domestic violence is a worldwide issue and includes, but isn’t limited to, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, according to the NCADV.

“Domestic: 3 Works by Women” will show through Oct. 14. A list of dates and ticket sales can be found on Loyola’s Fine and Performing Arts website.

The Domestic Violence Help Line is 877-863-6338.

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