Volume 16 • Issue 50 | May 7 - 13, 2004

THEATER

“So Close”
Walkerspace
46 Walker St.
May 13-29
Wed-Sun at 8pm
212-868-4444


A naked look at domestic violence

By Davida Singer

Photo by Romain Fruge

Marin Gazzaniga and John Ellison Conlee in “So Close” at Walkerspace

Several years ago, when freelancer/ actor Marin Gazzaniga was writing for the non-profit City organization, Victims Services (now called Safe Harbor), part of her job was to interview crime victims. She did a lot of work with domestic violence, speaking with the different parties: violence survivors, social workers, police officers, even the batterers themselves. Gazzaniga became quite familiar with the many points of view surrounding the subject, and a couple of “very intense” interviews actually inspired the idea for her first play, “So Close.”

“It’s been a long process to writing this play,” reports Gazzaniga, who’s written and edited for numerous magazines, and several nonfiction books. “I felt domestic violence was always portrayed too simply by the media: woman/good, man/bad, so lock him up and throw away the key. There’s truth there, of course, but it’s not useful to solve the problem. I wanted to get more voices into the discussion, but a book didn’t feel right to me. So I put the project away for a while. When I started acting again, I took out the material and wrote a piece as a series of monologues.”

The piece was workshopped around with positive response, and Gazzaniga got other actors to read, including Tony and Drama Desk nominee, John Conlee (“The Full Monty”), who got completely involved.

“My husband is a bass player, who played for John’s show, so I knew him,” Gazzaniga explains. “His participation has really spurred the project. Then we got the gifted actor/director Julia Gibson. The entire cast is just outstanding, and Michael Sexton’s contribution as director and dramaturge has been crucial to developing the piece.”

“So Close” is an intimate, dramatic portrait of one couple - Claire and Joey- narrated by Claire, and seen through the eyes of family and friends. In writing the play, it was Gazzaniga’s intention to look at questions and “challenge ideas not everyone’s heard of before.” Why is she so passionate about the play’s subject?

“It’s from working around it with people who were trying to help and getting frustrated,” she says. “I wanted to be able to bring all the complexity to light. I was adamant that there would be no physical violence in the piece. I didn’t want any judgment, but I also didn’t want to whitewash the subject. When domestic violence was first brought to our attention, we learned it’s not ok to beat your wife. We now know that’s wrong, then why does it still happen? This play is one attempt through one family’s story to understand how it can work. For example, a lot of people in violent relationships really love each other. And if you don’t understand that, you’re not going to be able to help.”

According to the writer, who’s also acting in the piece, “So Close” opens with six strangers, who come into a waiting room, and begin to tell their stories. It’s about a couple with a “typical domestic violent relationship, but with a twist.”

“Rather than tell a story to see how different we are from these people, I’d like the audience to see places we’re the same, in order to challenge us about how we all judge, Gazzaniga notes. “I don’t want to come across like I have answers. I’m just putting out various points of view. Actually, I hope people leave with more questions than answers themselves. Maybe they’ve learned something that opened their perspective. It’s really not a depressing play, so I don’t think you’re going to leave feeling horrible. Although it’s not sugar-coated, I can even promise you a fairly happy ending.”


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