A Daughter’s Love Letter to Complicated Familial Dramas
By Amanda Finn
Photo Credit: Graphic by Andrea Klohn.
I’m sitting at an airport in Denver, Colorado waiting for a puddle jumper to take me to Colorado Springs for my brother-in-law Brian’s wedding. In a place I’ve never been, eager to be reunited with my in laws and new family members I haven’t seen in what feels like forever, there are two shows from this past week that are stuck on my mind.
Both shows, A Number and Iron Kisses, evaluate the complicated relationships we have with family. They examine how we relate to those we love, how we fight our better judgements for their sakes and, most importantly, how we fit into one another’s lives.
A Number is like a two-hander, live Twilight Zone episode. Set in the distant future, a father tries to right his wrongs by cloning his son to do-over his parenting. Obviously things don’t usually work out in eerie tech stories like this one, Black Mirror and Twilight Zone are proof of that, but it doesn’t stop the relationship from fumbling its way through the steps of familial hardship.
Iron Kisses is also a two-hander, but unlike A Number, the two characters each play three people. David Cameli plays Billy, Billy’s Mom and Billy’s Dad while Bailey Castle plays Barbara, Barbara’s Mom and Barbara’s Dad. Yes, those Mom and Dad characters are the same people. The thing that Iron Kisses emphasizes is that our relationships with our parents vary so widely even among siblings. It’s a complication to be sure and it’s fascinating to watch unfold.
After all, stories never play out exactly as we remember them. We have our own biases and predispositions. You might not have actually been right in that argument with your mother in ninth grade even if you remember it that way. Your mother probably doesn’t. And if you have siblings they probably don’t even remember that fight unless they were in on it too.
Connecting these two shows, A Number at Writers Theatre and Iron Kisses at Theatre Above the Law, is an apt as well as a bizarre juxtaposition. A Number exists solely in the future while ⅔ of Iron Kisses resides in the past. It makes one ponder how intrinsic our family ties are. And in both shows we see the inevitability of fate as well.
Despite any fight to prove otherwise we are, undoubtedly, our parents’ child even if the traits you share are small ones or little habits you don’t even think about.
There is no shortage, especially in the American theatrical cannon, of family dramas. Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill are among the sadder ones, but there is a shortage of family dramas that don’t qualify as predictable.
Neither Iron Kisses or A Number are predictable. Moments are, yes, however there are unconventional twists and turns that shock even the most cynical theater goer. (That’s me, I can be fairly cynical towards family dramas.)
Like our own families, there is a lot we can learn about ourselves in new members of the family drama classification.
There are times in both of these shows when you pause and wonder if you should have done something differently. Maybe something you hadn’t thought of in years. There is this aching residual feeling when you leave the theater that you need to call your family members wherever they may be or whoever they may be just to feel that insurmountable connection.
In a time when we are practically tethered to our electronic devices it feels apropos that fairly new dramas (both are from the last 20 years) emerge from the woodwork. They come at a time when we need reminding that time and technology go both ways. They can connect us even more to our loved ones or drive us even further apart in what seems like just the blink of an eye.
So, tell those stories. Do your best. Share moments with your family members (or found family members, however your life has come together) and remember that none of us can escape the hands of time.