Anthony J. Piccione
- New York Theatre Critic
One can only imagine how hard it would be to enter into the Witness Protection Program. Having to leave behind your old life, your true identity, your family, and anything else that may have been part of your past. The pain is only made worse, if the person with whom you’re stuck in the program with is a lifelong criminal and a domestic abuser. That’s exactly what we see with our own eyes in All the King’s Horses, a short but potent drama from award-winning playwright Pamela Scott playing at the Bridge Theatre at Shetler Studios.
The play follows the story of Patty, a young woman who sacrifices her life and identity in New York, so she can stay united with her boyfriend Richie in an undisclosed location, as they are put into the Witness Protection Program, to be kept safe from a crime syndicate Richie was previously associated with. However, Patty soon realizes that she may have made a mistake, as whenever she questions anything Richie says, she faces horrific and painful physical abuse from the man she thought she was in love with.
If it sounds terrifying as you read it, it’s even more difficult to see it in person. Over the course of the play, we watch this relationship unravel through various events – from one heart-pounding moment to another – until it ultimately reaches a relatively quick and low-key conclusion. While Ms. Scott explores each of the characters in her play in a very personal and intimate matter, she also has created a story that perfectly captures the all too common experience of abuse that too many have experienced, at the hands of their partners, and unfortunately, might be all too familiar to some audience members.
A big part of why these moments shine through, however, is thanks to its very talented cast. In the role of Patty, Erika Longo proves to be particularly excellent, in terms of capturing the shock and pain that her character feels. It can’t be easy to come off as truly authentic, during scenes where her character is nearly beaten to death, but she seamlessly does exactly that. Also turning in a strong performance is Gregg Prosser, who displays all the aggressive mood swings and manipulative narcissism that you’d expect from a character like Richie. Finally, Kerry McGann shows both a cold exterior and a hidden softness for emotional trauma in the role of Pauline, the FBI agent assigned to protect Patty and Richie.
The only issue with this play is that it could have been longer! By the time the show had reached its curtain call, I was surprised, as I’d been looking forward to seeing more in a second act. Nonetheless, this hour-long play does an excellent job, as it is, in terms of highlighting issues of domestic violence and abuse and why people continue to go through with it, on a very human level. As of this review, this show is nearing the end of its run, so if you have the chance to catch it before it closes, be sure to do so, and be prepared to experience one of the most emotionally intense plays of the year.
“All the King’s Horses” – presented by Aching Dogs Theater Company - runs at the Bridge Theatre at Shetler Studios from July 26th-August 19th. For more information, please visit www.allthekingshorses.bpt.me.