The Liar's Punishment

ensemble theatre · leda siskind · Ages 15+ · United States of America

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June 19, 2017 certified reviewer

What I liked

Nancy Youngblut is touching and mercurial as Elbee, a homeless woman with a colorful and mysterious past. We learn more about her as she reveals her love of theatre, the classic playwrights and literature. Our revelations about her are interrupted with the appearance of Gwen, a social worker, whose task is to provide intake interviews of the homeless and try to match them with services, such as room and board. The battle of wills that ensues is interesting to watch as both women reveal pieces of themselves in turn and in exchange for information about the other.

I felt that Jennifer Lee Laks did a good job revealing parts of Gwen, while trying to remain professional and engaging enough to coax vital information from Elbee. It is sword play of words and the tight-rope walk she has to perform is known all too well by those in social service. At one point, we see how dangerous this job can be, when the wrong thing is said or the wrong trigger memory is activated. The questions asked by Gwen make you think about all of the various issues that the homeless – especially women – face, every, single day. Poor health. Mental Illness. An addiction problem. A major setback such as divorce, illness, personal tragedy or bankruptcy could send any one of us at any time to join the ranks of the homeless, though we think of ourselves as different from them. Perhaps a bit “above” them. Life on the streets is not easy, or safe.

I felt the play is a good catalyst for the issues the homeless face, as well as the difficult job that social workers have in dealing with those who often are living in their own reality. I came away from this play with an appreciation for how difficult it is to help those in distress, but also how we should not judge people by their outside appearance, because looks and assumptions can be wrong.

What I didn't like

The short length of the play could perhaps be expanded to allow more character development. But the groundwork is there for an interesting and thought-provoking drama. I would be interested in seeing it expanded and fleshed-out a bit more.

My overall impression

I enjoyed this play, as it is timely and relevant to those who live in the city and see homeless people every day. Each one is a person with a story and a history; a family and a past. We don’t know everyone’s story , but we often make judgments about that we do not know.

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