I daresay “Diggle’s” set design for Blake Hackler’s The Necessities is a tip-off to the unconventional nature of this rich, deeply affecting exploration of isolation, catastrophe, and the accidental nature of grace. We are in the middle of a forest, with a picnic table center stage. Whether the scenes take place in that spot, or Walmart or a massage studio, we are never out of the woods. In the opening scene Ward, a young man, is looking for pulses of light, at a spot where men usually look for sexual connection. To all appearances, he is timing lightning flashes. So many seconds between crash and burst. An older, nervous man, Peter appears, who may or not be there to quell his libido. Their encounter is awkward and unpleasant.
It is safe to say that all four characters in The Necessities have been damaged in some way, through no fault of their own. Debbie works in a Walmart (her daughter is notorious for her involvement in a suicide pact) she is acerbic and downtrodden. Carly (Ward’s mother) is a massage therapist overwhelmed by a sense of abandonment and her bright, but delinquent son. Peter, Debbie, Ward and Carly are very different, but in one way or another, they are staving off despair. They cross paths (perhaps reminiscent of Insignificance?) and offer redemption. The kind of redemption the broken grant to someone who is also. Somehow Hackler has made this clearing in the midst of a foreboding forest much larger and much smaller than it appears.
Like some of the best plays, The Necessities is easier to process in retrospect, though our immediate experience is enigmatic, compelling, unorthodox and quite raw. The deeper we go into the details of these four, the more excruciating and oddly spiritual it becomes. These four are in pain, though they don’t express it in obvious ways. They almost seem to be stuck at the cusp of some dilemma. The flashes in the forest, these metaphysical glimpses into the healing and possible, weave their way into this narrative quilt, at once familiar and inexplicable. Cozy and odd. Blake Hackler has created a memorable, poignant drama with a subtle, surprising, distinctive voice and the performers: Tex Patrello (Ward) Matthew Gray (Peter) Christie Vela (Debbie) and Allison Pistorius (Carly) put themselves through the wringer for us. Hackler makes hay of the glorious human predicament of suffering, striving, hoping.
Second Thought Theatre presents Blake Hackler’s The Necessities, playing July 5th-29th, 2017. Bryant Hall at Kalita Humphreys Campus, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd., Dallas, Texas 75219. 1-866-811-4111. www. secondthoughtheatre.com