“The Library” – Public Theater

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by: Marcina Zaccaria

 

“The Library,” written by the award-winning writer Scott Z. Burns and directed by Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh, is a compelling story about a shooting at a high school.  The show features performances from Chloe Grace Moretz, Tamara Tunie, and Lili Taylor.

The script covers every side of the drama.  From the critical hospital room, to the school inquiries, to the prying eyes of the press, to the intervention of religious leaders, Burns writes a script that is more than a document of events.  After the media leaves and the people of the town are left to consider one another again, what remains?

It is an interesting journey for Caitlin Gabriel, played by Chloe Grace Moretz.  The narrative isn’t in any way flimsy, and the interwoven stories of the characters hold together.  The violence, the day of the shooting, is palpable and the drama is clear.  A dangerous, intricate world at an everyday place is depicted, and each part of the journey is mapped out.

Soderbergh’s attention to the subject matter is deeply perceptive.  As the after effects of the crime unfold, the actors slowly reveal the drama.  The day of the shooting is the defining event.  As we slowly learn who these people are, we are not so much surprised as drawn in.  While not emotionless, the characters sometimes find themselves lost.  As the story unfolds, more aspects of the events at the library are revealed, and the character’s motives are questioned as there is an interdependent need to tell the story.

Though the play offers no stunning revelation on stage, the characters manage to find enlightenment through a smoke-filled haze.  The set almost feels like a bold soundstage, where every whisper breaks the silence.

It is a careful, spare world with a shiny black floor.  Saturated color dominates the brilliant back wall.  Lighting Design by David Lander is bold and operatic, offering surprise and innovation. The reconstruction of the day of the crime is told in the most dramatic way.  Red flashes from the back wall light the stage each time a person was shot.  Sound design by Darron L West and M. Florian Staab highlight the rising and falling action.  Costume design by Gabriel Berry is contemporary, and Scenic Design is by Riccardo Hernandez.

The performances are refreshing. Some of the actors play recognizable roles, including Tamara Tunie, who starred in “Law and Order: SVU.”  Tunie plays a Detective who slowly and carefully extracts the story of the day of the shooting.  She is a striking figure on stage, and a guiding force through the drama.  Lili Taylor plays a mother who is devastated by the loss of her child, a shooting victim.  She weathers the shock and loss, looking to spirituality while trying to keep her daughter’s memory alive.  She has a tough challenge, and chooses to write a book to preserve the memory of her daughter.  The book later becomes material for what could be a movie.

The supporting cast is quite strong, including Daryl Sabara (Ryan Mayes), David Townsend (Publisher), and Ben Livingston (Reverend Dunston, ADA Thornton), Michael O’ Keefe (Nolan Gabriel), and Jennifer Westfeldt (Elizabeth Gabriel).  As a company, they struggle to work through the devastation.  Although there is no larger, mysterious healing at the end of the play, there is a possibility of something new.

 

“The Library” is running until Sunday, April 27th at The Public Theater   425 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10003
(212) 539-8500

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