You hit me with a flower
You do it every hour
Oh, baby, you’re so vicious.”
“Vicious” by Lou Reed (1973)
What if the rain never stopped, if it kept pouring, pouring, pouring until it seeps in between your joints, short-circuits your brain and makes your head spin? Where do you go when the world tries to drown you?
You’d go to therapy if you know what’s good for you!
Such is the ostensible premise behind “Hit Me Like A Flower,” written and directed by Beau O’Reilly and presented by Curious Theatre Branch at the Facility Theatre in Ukrainian Village. The work, originally presented twenty years ago at Curious, is reconstructed by O’Reilly (with help) not through old scripts and notes, but by memory.
The year is 2003 and the United States has gone to war in Iraq over… reasons. In a small town, anti-war protestors march in chaotic circles under dark blue light, swirling like plastic balls in a lottery wheel; the lucky ones that pop out are the subjects of short scenes between two or three characters, slice-of-life narratives that congeal in a fatal finale. The sparse set—a couple of chairs, a few umbrellas—asks the audience to use their imagination to fill in the scenery.
In this world the rain never stops, and beneath this absurdity lies a message of hope amid dejection. Upon entering a scene, each character dowses themselves in “water” by pulling on dangling strings attached to overhead boxes full of white confetti while a soundtrack of rain, thunder and rushing water cycles endlessly, becoming white noise that you forget is there until it stops. Rain serves as a metaphor for the crushing weight of life, coped with and ignored until tragedy irrevocably brings all together in prayer.
Jackie (Kristen Garrison) is a private-practice therapist who treats the townsfolk’s neuroses, her home office a nexus where we learn everyone’s backstories. Mrs. Chester (Jayita Bhattacharya), formerly homeless, speaks to imaginary friends. Forest Ranger Don (Mike Amandes) suffers from low libido after a romantic tryst with Jackie’s (married) brother, Norman (Steve Lehman). Celebrity writer William (Beau O’Reilly) complains that “I am losing my words” as the older man pulls at invisible threads in the air. Arthur (Shaun Rosten), a large, broad, bearded man, is prone to fits of violent rage and attacks people in the woods while wearing a brown-bear mask.
Other characters appear as mirror images of social tropes. Jackie’s daughter, Terry (Hannah Johnston), is the typical millennial-age college student, dressed in backwards baseball cap and flannel shirt, riding a skateboard and pining for their best friend, Hannah (Allison Gruber), a deadpan “emo kid” whose head is persistently covered in a thick black hoodie. Saul (Paul Brennan) is a stereotypical young progressive liberal, carrying a cardboard protest sign and answering every question with “Do you even know how many soldiers have died over there?” Every character except Jackie has their signature props, giving them the air of serialized cartoon characters.
Although the loose plot is slow to get moving, “Hit Me With A Flower” blossoms into a touching story of people clinging to one another as war wages in the world and within themselves. O’Reilly astutely captures the sentiment that no one leaves this crazy life without picking up at least a dash of eccentricity.
“Hit Me Like A Flower” is presented by Curious Theatre Branch and runs through February 4 at Facility Theatre, 1138 North California. Tickets are pay-what-you-can, with a suggested price of $20. For more information visit CuriousTheatreBranch.com.