Arts & Entertainment

‘Shattering’ smashed expectations at the Tacoma Little Theatre

The Tacoma Little Theatre is bringing “Shattering” to the stage for the first time ever and is one of the few theaters to show this play in the country. TLT acquired this play through the AACT NewPlayFest — a process that brings six theaters from across the country together in order to present six selective scripts out of 300 proposed. “Shattering” was one of the last scripts read from the 13 finalists that TLT chose from. What drove the script home, according to director Chris Serface, was the end of the play. The play runs for about two hours and consists of four characters. Even though the cast is small, their performances are big and complement the storyline perfectly.

“Shattering” is about 15 year old Jonah who, after enduring a contemptible upbringing and a troublesome childhood, ends up being part of a gang and is later committed into a juvenile detention facility due to a robbery gone wrong. Once released, Jonah is accepted into the foster home of DeeDee, the mother of the young man Sonny, who was killed during the robbery. While living with DeeDee, Jonah learns what it means to be a better person despite his past. 

The opening scene begins with the murder of Sonny which, at first, was slightly difficult to comprehend since Jonah’s role was that of a lookout, not a first-hand murderer. After the death of Sonny, the audience hears a window break. This moment is followed by complete darkness except that of a visual of shattering glass projected throughout the entire theater — successively sending shivers down the audience’s spines. Subsequently, the rest of the play commences and the audience is thrown into the lives of the four characters to follow their experiences throughout the next few months. The play ends the same way that the show begins: with the sound of shattering glass and acts as an appealing connection between the beginning and end of the story. 

“Shattering” explores a variety of difficult topics within the larger storyline, including teen pregnancy, self-harm, sexual assault, gang life and religious polarity. Given the nature of these topics, the writer inserts moments of humor to provide comic relief for the audience in order to break up an otherwise extremely dark narrative.  

This powerful narrative discusses topics oftentimes not talked about or diminished within the media sphere and conventional theater productions.. The actors — Robin McGee, who plays DeeDee, Donovan Mahannah as the Jonah, Joshua Hector as Sonny, and Cynthia Kinyanjui as LaBelle — produce compelling performances and successfully craft dynamic relationships that remain consistent throughout the play. 

Not only are the actor’s performances persistent throughout the production, but the set doesn’t change during its entirety. Considering the story takes place singularly within DeeDee’s home, master carpenter Blake York and lead carpenter Frank Roberts managed to impressively craft three separate spaces onto one stage — the bedroom, living room and dining room. 

Bearing in mind that the story chronicles varied experiences and tackles diverse topics, the fragmented plot and fixed set can leave the audience a bit disoriented and unsure of what to focus on. Switching quickly between flashbacks, storylines, and even months in between scenes,  it seems as if the writer, Pat Montley, attempted to fit too many issues and leitmotifs into one. In turn, this leaves certain aspects of the play feeling rushed or underdeveloped and takes away from crucial features that would have benefitted if more focus had been applied in certain areas. 
Despite these setbacks, “Shattering” provides Tacoma with a play unlike any other. Riddled with raw and evocative dialogue, as well as rich performances, “Shattering” tells a tale of reconciliation and forgiveness that is sure to leave a lasting impression on all of its viewers.