Anthony J. Piccione
New York Theatre Critic
The issue of consent, and how it is defined, is a topic of discussion that has frequently come up in the arts and in our society for years now, especially in light of the stories that have emerged as a result of the #MeToo and #WhyIDidntReport movements. As these stories have come out, the issue of what role age plays in determining what counts as consent, and whether or not people in a relationship are really being taken advantage of, has come up more and more frequently. It is this “grey area”, and how it affects the women involved, that lies at the heart of Sarah Elizabeth Grace’s new play Implied Consent.
Set in Michigan in the early-2000s, the play tells the story of Tara Rose, a young writer who – after having been married her wife, a college professor named Rebecca – reconciles with childhood mentor Nick during a brief return visit to her hometown, only to rediscover past feelings – both good and bad – that lead to some very uncomfortable encounters between each of them, and force Tara Rose to confront her past to an extent that she had not previously.
As a playwright, Ms. Grace proves to be excellent at exploring a common and relatable issue on a very human and intimate level, exploring not merely a past incident involving a sexual relationship between a young women with a much older man, but also the psychological impact it has then and later in their life, as well as the complicity of others who knew both involved parties. My one issue is that some of the “past” scenes, which are actually scenes from the novel that Tara Rose is writing about her ancestor, feel mostly unnecessary with regards to advancing the main plot and explaining the story to its audience, and a few of them could easily have been cut without hurting the story of the lead character. However, that doesn’t detract from the rest of the play, which is very well-written, mildly funny at times, and especially powerful toward the end.
Boosting the strength of this production is its cast, which – under the director of Emily Hartford – does a very fine job at bringing this play to life. In addition to her work as a writer, Ms. Grace also proves to be a strong performer, as she brings to life her character of Tara Rose. Also turning in moving and emotive performances are Matt W. Cody and Morgan McGuire as Nick and Rebecca, respectively. Finally, while these melodramatic scenes might not have been the biggest highlight of the show, Adriana Jones (Esther), Brendan Patrick Connor (James) and Ryan Desaulniers (Matthew) also make the most of the characters they are portraying.
Unfortunately, by the time many of you read this, it’s unlikely they’ll be enough time to catch its last performance during the day. However, if this play is any indication, Ms. Grace is a playwright whose future work is worth keeping an eye out for, and I hope to have to the chance to see her work again.
(Full disclosure: I should note that Ms. Grace, in addition to her work as an actor and playwright, has also worked for this website as a featured writer. For the sake of our readers, I will say that Ms. Grace and I have not previously known each other, either personally or professionally, and that the only time I’ve ever seen her prior to this show was in a show presented this past summer, in which she was part of the cast.)
“Implied Consent” – presented by Badass Lady Productions – runs at the Access Theatre from October 11th-14th. For more information, please visit www.sarahelizabethgrace.com.