“Am I my brother’s keeper?” It’s an age-old moral question that has never been satisfactorily resolved since Cain first asked it. In “Hugging the Shoulder,” now playing at the Shadow Box Theatre, playwright Jerrod Bogard adds layers of complexities to the moral implications of the question as a young man desperately attempts to save his brother from the depths of his own drug addiction.You can read the complete review here.
The setting is what appears to be a simple road trip – the pair of men driving in a van. Derrick, the younger brother has essentially kidnapped his brother Jeremy, and is driving across country for days and days to an unnamed destination, in the hopes of breaking Jeremy of his heroin addiction. Through a series of flashbacks, we see glimpses of their earlier lives together, as well as the spiraling path of self-destruction that Jeremy has plunged into head first. ...
“Hugging the Shoulder” is finely cast. As Derrick, Joe Seibert gives a nuanced and delicately balanced performance of a man who is struggling to do the right thing, but is overwhelmed by his brother’s predicament. Seibert plays Derrick distinctly not as the hero – before the road trip, his primary relationship with Jeremy seems to revolve around knocking back a couple of six-packs, smoking joints, watching NASCAR, and fighting. Seibert especially captures the guilt of his conflicted feelings (he clearly loves his brother but he doesn’t particularly like him), as well as the tormented anxieties of being in over his head.
In the more overtly showier role of Jeremy, Eli Grove smartly never overdoes it. As he goes through his heroin withdrawal, the screaming, pleading, vomiting and fighting is ripe for over-the-top theatrics. Grove gets the feelings, the pain, and the sheer exhaustion of his character’s struggle across without scenery-chewing histrionics. He also is unafraid of presenting an unlikeable character but holds the audience captivated by each move he makes.
As Christy, the junkie girlfriend seen only in the flashbacks, Liz Mills only has a few precious moments to define her character (she spends one entire scene passed out on the couch) and its place in the brothers’ lives. Her brilliantly honest and heartbreaking performance captures the tragedy of addiction most compellingly in a monologue in which she describes Disneyland, the “happiest place on earth,” as she shoots up. The result is a disturbing and frightening allure.
In a brief role that is vital to the exposition, T.J. Toups does well as the highway patrolman.
Then there was this.
Congratulations to everyone involved. Be proud.