AFTER IT'S award-winning debut in last year’s Galway Fringe Festival, garnering the ‘Best Emerging Artists’ award, Eva’s Echo Theatre Company presented it's second production last week, The Way It Is, by American playwright Donna Hoke.
Hoke is a prolific and successful writer whose plays have been widely performed, though her name is less familiar to audiences on this side of the Atlantic than in the US. The Way It Is was an hour-long two hander portraying the emotionally fraught endgame between erstwhile lovers Cane (Michael Reed ) and Yasmine (Hazel Doolan ). After eight years together, Cane has recently moved out and found a new love. The play centres on the fireworks that ensue when he returns to Hazel’s flat to collect his belongings.
Cane’s hopes for a stress-free visit are quickly dashed when Hazel makes it plain she still carries a major torch for him. As he gathers his things she repeatedly tries to seduce him –and there are moments when Kane’s resistance to her wavers.
Hoke’s fluent dialogue catches the swirling crosscurrents of loss, guilt, hurt and still-smouldering desire that fuel Yasmine and Kane’s interactions. But as the play moved to its climax she overplayed her hand, using the clunky plot device of a hand-gun with which Yasmine threatens Kane. With the gun literally put to his head, Kane yields to her demands and desire and the couple have sex.
It rather stretches credibility that a man in fear of his life would still manage to perform sexually. It could be suggested that Kane inwardly knew he was not in danger and the gun was thus a handy ‘alibi’ which gave him the license to have sex with Yasmine but the staging didn’t really project that ambiguity. On the other hand, at a time when the #metoo movement is highlighting awareness of sexual violence against women, the play certainly had the novelty of ‘flipping the coin’ to dramatise a situation where it was a woman perpetrating sexual violence against a man.
Ably directed by Rena Bryson, Hazel Doolan and Michael Reed both turned in commendable performances as the agitated duo whose love refuses to ‘go gently into that good night’. The production was preceded by a warning to the audience of its ‘explicit sexual content’, though in truth, nothing that was said or shown that would have merited an ‘X Cert’ so that warning proved unnecessary. If The Way It Is returns in the future, keep an eye out for it.