WRECKS — A one act play

I love theater, dramatic theater more than musical theater. 

                                   WRECKS — A one act play

I love theater, dramatic theater more than musical theater. 

Although I am a fan of all music, dramatic theater, as the Greeks called
Comedy and Tragedy; offers to me, via characters in a play, a full spectrum
of emotions vicariously – emotions that don’t fall under either category:
comedy or tragedy; emotions that stretch the human imagination.

The Greeks have a famous play Oedipus Rex which redefines emotional
boundaries through the lives of a son and a mother and a father, a king, no
less. Freud coined the term, Oedipus Complex, a boy’s sexual love for his
mother.  Woody Allen in his movie, Mighty Aphrodite dealt with these
issues.  Cut to 2010.  Wrecks opens in Los Angeles and takes a boy’s
sexual love for his mother to the next level – right now.

Wrecks is a one act play, a one man show, one that involves a grieving
widower in the funeral parlor alone with the coffin containing his beloved
departed spouse.  The man on the stage is Hollywood A list actor, Ed
Harris.  Ed Harris first performed this play in Ireland at the premier in 2006. 
 Since then, the play has shown in London and this month, it is showing at the
Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, in their auxiliary stage which seats less than
100 persons at maximum occupancy.  It is a very intimate space.

The play begins and Harris is chain smoking through its entirety, herbal
cigarettes we are told by a sign on the door – stage props for real
cigarettes. He is tense, nervous, like a shifty kid the entire time.  He never
stops talking.  He tells of his childhood growing up in orphanages and foster
homes, of constantly moving, of hand-me-downs, of the new kid always
getting the last pick of everything.  And he, the perennial new kid.

He tells of meeting his wife.  From about 15 minutes into the play, it is clear
that he was twenty five when he met her and that she was forty and unhappily
married with two almost adult children.  By 30 minutes into the play we know
that he punched out her husband and that the husband’s ‘men’ beat him to a
pulp.  We also learn that they met again at a later time and eventually

He tells us that until he met his wife, he had not had sexual intercourse with
any other woman.

By 40 minutes into the play, we hear of their family business which is kind of
like ‘Rent a Wreck’ he says.  The most beautiful car he’d ever seen in his life
was an old white Cadillac.  When people rent cars, they always get new
cars.  His wife and him traveled all over many states and bought many
classic old cars and fixed them up and rented them out.  They had several
shops.  They were successful and later bought out by Avis.

By 60 minutes, we hear that as a youth he tried hard to find his mother,
who’d given him up at birth.  We discover that she’d been raped at age
fifteen by an uncle and sent away to have the child and made to go on with
her life like it never happened.  She got married and moved away the first
chance she got.  We learn that he went through great expense trying to
locate his mother and learn of her. We learn that his wife was 15 years older
than him, with grown children, when she married him.

It was an 80 minute play.  We knew that going in.  I wouldn’t say the play
started to drag, but by the hour point I had to nudge my mother cuz she was
going to doze.  I went with my mother to see the play.  It wasn’t that it was
dragging, it was more like, okay, what’s it going happen?  We know the guy
has some ‘mother complex’ that his wife is somehow a mother figure, but
something had to happen, that was a given.   It’s a play.  There has to be a

Drama requires a setting with characters, a conflict; then, some
resolution. That is the standard formula. That’s why most plays are three

The whole play so far had been this guy talking about his life and his wife;
and as an audience member, I started to wonder, what was the big punch
going to be?  I knew there had to be one because, why else would we be
listening to this go on for 70 minutes? Why would Ed Harris, such a well-
known actor, be so closely associated with this play? He was about to leave
the room and he kept coming back and adding ‘One more thing…’  I really
loved my wife.  And she really loved me.

And then it came.  The man was teary eyed.  “I loved her.  She was my wife. 
She was my…”

Certain films have had the same kind of twisted ending that, if you know the
ending, really kills the overall drama.  The Korean film, Old Boy is a good
example.  Old Boy is what could be called a ‘revenge’ film. The whole film is
this man’s ordeal at the hands of some powerful man or some organization
and in the end he finds himself living, having sexual relations with this young
woman; and then he finds out that the woman is his…

Let’s call into question all that we consider right and wrong.

Or the movie The Crying Game, a brilliant Neil Jordan film, which has many
subplots and subtexts about the IRA and Terrorism and Stockholm
Syndrome, but the most outstanding point in this movie is that the main
character’s love interest is not a woman but a ….In the film, The Sixth
, another such twist is the culmination of this film. 

I’m not a fan of giving SPOILERS to plots, but in the case of Wrecks it is not
so much a twist but a truth that is unspoken for the length of the play —
a reality that leaves the audience with thoughts about what is really right and
wrong. It is not some strange twist as much as it is an unsettling end to an
otherwise normal story of love and loss. An ordinary story of some random
man losing his loving wife becomes an exploration of what is right, what is

If someone loves you unconditionally and you love them back, what is the
evil is that?  I don’t know.  It seems that everything is wrong at some level to
some body, but is love something to be called wrong, just because it doesn’t
fit into a swell package of right and wrong?   Culturally, things that are
considered ‘taboo’ change from one people to the next.  Still, impregnating
one’s own mother and raising children with her is not something that any
culture I know of accepts as hunky dory.  I think most of the people in the
theatre house felt like my mother sitting next to me when he said those
words, ‘She was my mother.’  I think most of the people in the playhouse
didn’t see that coming. I saw it coming because I expected nothing less, but
really I didn’t see it coming till he started dropping a lot of hints late in the
play. My question is – did the mother know?  It would be difficult to live with
the man for twenty years and NOT know that he was her son. 

Drama on stage makes us as humans face the unmentionable.  At least it
should. It is no wonder that Ed Harris, an A list celebrity, should stand behind this work that he faces nightly.

There had to be some BOOM.  There had to be some kind of ERUPTION. 
That is why drama has the power it does.  It helps people to see what and
and more importantly, why not.  Drama is not meant to give answers. 
It is meant to proffer questions.


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