Writer-director Sean Devine has brought a piece to the Magnetic North Theatre Festival that compels the audience to think.
Set in America in 1965 and post-9/11, Re:Union explores, in a semi-fictionalized fashion, the true story of Quaker Norman Morrison (Brad Long) through the eyes of his daughter Emily (Alex Devine) and the former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Andrew Wheeler). In 1965, Morrison drove himself and one-year-old Emily to the Pentagon, where he immolated himself underneath McNamara’s office window in protest of the Vietnam War. Morrison’s demonstration changes the lives of both Emily and McNamara, forever connecting them through the most unique of circumstances.
The set, designed by John Webber, transports us through time, bringing us back to the days leading up to Morrison’s death and back again to the more recent action, in which Emily and McNamara struggle with their own notions of what happened the day that their lives became intertwined. The projections, designed by Jason H. Thompson, brought gripping visuals to the stage by combining images of war and protest to demonstrate clashing ideologies. Though deceptively simple at first glance, this one-of-a-kind set serves the play well and is in itself a compelling and multidisciplinary piece of art.
In scenes where the audience gets to meet the martyr himself, Long provides a charismatic representation of Morrison. He comes across as honest to the audience, and yet still leaves us struggling to understand why he would implicate his child in his own act of rebellion. Long’s portrayal of Morrison is successful in that after witnessing his protest, the line between selfless and selfish becomes hazy. Wheeler brings us a troubled McNamara who, when Emily finally meets him, is 85 and is clearly still struggling to put his memories of Morrison behind him. These two actors play men who are flawed humans, and as audience members we can either judge them, or see that they both believed in the good of what they were doing.
Devine’s Emily is the neutral ground between these two men. In trying to get McNamara to join her in her own protest Emily seeks to bring him to the same place where father immolated himself, on the 36th anniversary of his death. Devine captures Emily’s emotion, bringing youthful drive to the character. She and Wheeler have great chemistry on stage, revealing that perhaps McNamara and Emily are still searching for what that they have lost by connecting with each other.
Re:Union is a high-quality piece of work that captures intense and emotional subjects and gives the audience something meaningful to consider. Magnetic North has managed to include a piece that really exemplifies its tagline for this year’s program – Radical Lessons for a Meaningful Life — as this play provokes reflection and asks the audience to think. Re:Union will spark a curiosity in you that has the potential to change how you see the world.
Written and directed by Sean Devine
Produced by Horseshoes and Hand Grenades Theatre
By Caterina Fiorindi