‘Leaves of Glass’ describes trauma through repressed emotion

Oct. 7, 2013

Eleanor Skelton
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Strings of white lights twinkle through purple chenille. A bearded man, visible through eerie blue light, recalls a childhood trip to the seaside with his family. Every monologue is delivered in the same manner, often ending with, “I wanted to say something, but I didn’t.”

“Leaves of Glass,” directed by student Jen Jones, is a production of Philip Ridley’s stage play, first produced in 2007. The show runs Oct. 4-13 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 6 p.m. at the Osborne Student Theater.

Ridley is a British playwright known for his dark psychological dramas, and this production captures the characters’ trauma as well as their current facade of innocence.

Disaster bleeds throughout the plot. One of the two brothers’ first conversations is about a local supermarket suicide bomber who killed a small child.

Steven sits at his desk in neat business attire, ignoring Barry’s colorful attempts to compare the tragedy to the skulls at Auschwitz and his insistence at reliving details of the past: “Dad told us that stars are gateways into death, remember brov?”

Barry, the creative of the two, insists he cannot work for Steven’s graffiti removal company because doing so would remove the street art depicting the supermarket bombing.

Later, Barry paints a gray, swirling canvas for the nursery of Steven’s first child, titling it, “For the Offspring of Enola Gay,” the bomber plane that flew over Hiroshima.

History’s slaughters meld into present disaster and personal experience for Barry, who suffers from nightmares, alcoholism and mental instability.

The danger of repressed emotions and childhood trauma leak out as the audience watches Steven become more consumed by his father’s suicide in a canal.

His mother Liz and his wife Debbie live in a surface world, gossiping with the neighbors and buying handbags, ignoring Steven’s real problem and criticizing his numbness to Debbie’s pregnancy.

As Steven’s stability crashes into a depression that his mother dismisses as “a flu-y bug thing,” Barry is the only character who sympathizes, sitting with him in the dark cellar and lighting their father’s candelabra. Steven tells Barry his memories are invalid, causing the audience to question which brother is actually insane.

The stage contains all five sets – Barry’s apartment, Steven’s office, Steven and Debbie’s house, his mother’s house and the cellar – on different levels, demonstrating the interconnected nature of Steven’s past and his psychological problems.

The title, “Leaves of Glass,” is finally explained in the closing scene, as Steven’s mother remembers a glass tree with bright leaves Steven bought for her after his father’s death.

As the lights fade, we connect again to the recurring theme of stars as an electronic voice sings “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”