Those who filed into Bonn Studio moments before Tuesday’s performance of Resurfacing were greeted by a meager scene: Two unassuming metal chairs sat in center stage, the bright lights beaming down on them as the theatergoers waited in their seats expectantly. With Victorian music playing overhead, the “Oh god, this is going to be one of those super self-indulgent artsy plays” thought was inevitable. But Resurfacing turned out to be anything but self-indulgent. The performance of the one-act, two-actor play bared all of its emotional depth for a captivated room of students, faculty, and community members.
The play was presented by Health Story Collaborative (HSC), Creating Outreach About Addiction Support Together (COAAST), the Boston College Institute for Liberal Arts, the English department, and the Medical Humanities Program. It recounted the struggle of a father (Paul E. Kandarian) to support his son (Ryan Durkay)—both of which are named Paul—as the latter battles his opioid addiction.
Starting with heartwarming recollections of childhood memories, the play moved through topics such as divorce, depression, and indirection with agility and grace, fleshing out the weight of the words—a triumph of both the animated acting and the script, which was written by Kandarian and inspired by his own experience with his son who had once struggled with addiction. Although the actor who originally portrayed Paul Jr. and battled addiction himself was not on hand for the performance due to “an unfortunate incident,” Durkay easily slipped into the role of an addict.
An utter lack of frivolity worked to the advantage of the performance. The audience, denied the comfort of superfluous props, had to give their full attention to the conflict taking place on stage, whether that conflict took the form of a screaming match between father and son or a wet-eyed monologue from father or son. While Durkay mimed doing chores on his chair at one point, the actors didn’t utilize their sole props for any corny displays of action. Despite driving to and from and to and from rehabilitation centers, the actors didn’t mimic steering a car at any point. It was the deft dialogue and the poignancy of the performances that moved the characters from appointment to appointment.
Adding insult to (physical and emotional) injury, the play criticizes societal ills on two main fronts: the implications of military service and, to a greater extent, the opioid crisis. Following his first bout of opioid addiction, Paul Jr. decides to join the military to get clean and to have an urgent responsibility to stay clean. Having seen terrible things in Afghanistan, the veteran quickly relapses following his honorable discharge and struggles to regain control of his life given the meager resources of the Veteran’s Association.
Resurfacing most robustly triumphs in its address of the opioid crisis by putting faces to a subject that is often talked about in general terms by the media. While much of the recent coverage of the opioid epidemic centers around statistics, lawsuits, and pharmaceutical companies, Resurfacing forces purveyors to confront the human suffering that lies below the surface of newspaper headlines and political pleas.
Featured Image by Aneesa Wermers / For The Heights