Faculty Portrait by Sean David DeMers
Reviewed by Robert Viagas
In light of the coronavirus epidemic that has erupted into everyone’s day-to-day, it shouldn’t be forgotten that mass shootings, especially at schools, have presented a different kind of horrifying epidemic disrupting American life for years now. Sean David DeMers’ new drama Faculty Portraittries to show the effect of just such a shooting calamity has on the lives of a small group of friends and teachers at a small high school.
The play focuses on three relationships: a lesbian teen couple (Phoebe Holden and Jessic Nesi), an interracial couple (Shammah “Speed” Waller and Molly Schenkenberger), and two married teachers (Russ Cusick, whose wife is one of the shooting victims, referred to but never seen).
Also not seen is the shooter himself, though he is constantly referred to as a troubled young man who has invited one of the lesbian girls to accompany him to the prom, but is refused. Is this what triggers the shooter? Possibly. Probably. But DeMers seems less interested in the whys of his story as he is in how the whole experience rocks the worlds of his characters.
The story jumps backward and forward in time, showing the days and even the moments leading up to the shooting, and then chronicling the aftermath as it affects the rest of their days. This fragmented, scrambled, introspective approach proves mildly interesting rather than dramatically compelling. Scenes with Julie Thaxter-Gourlay as a traumatized custodian who witnesses the shooting don’t add as much as they should. It’s left to Holden, as the other victim, and Nesi as her thoughtful and emotional girlfriend, to carry the dramatic weight of the story. They are well up to the challenge, but without understanding something of the crazed passion that drives the killer who disrupts their universe, Faculty Portrait is left with a black hole at its center.
Directed by Ariel Francoeur and produced by Prime Number Productions as part of the 3B Development series, Faculty Portrait, played a limited run Off-Off-Broadway originally scheduled through March 21 at the IRT Theatre in Manhattan.