People who commit horrific crimes and engage in criminal behavior don’t just have a whole new litany of problems as a result of their terrible choices. They also have family members who scramble to figure out what went so wrong, and a new reality for those families – attachment to a criminal, having to love someone who has caused harm. It’s a whole new set of confusing circumstances, and no clear path to reconcile those feelings.
That dichotomy in moments like these fascinate playwright Ashlin Halfnight. It’s the subject of his new play that just opened at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco. “The Resting Place,” running through Nov. 1st, examines collateral damage which manifests itself from tragedy. The play has a six-person cast and is directed by Jessica Holt.
The play’s title speaks volumes about the premise of the show, a premise Halfnight struggles to explain. That’s because, just like the play he wrote, there are no easy answers.
“The play’s central question is about burial rights and how a family is going to handle honoring those family members,” said Halfnight.
The 43-year-old playwright received a degree in English from Harvard and an MFA in playwriting from Columbia University. Halfnight’s unique journey also saw him drafted by the Hartford Whalers hockey club (who later became the Carolina Hurricanes).
Once Halfnight’s hockey career concluded, a life in playwriting came into much sharper focus. Born in London, raised in Toronto and now living in Brooklyn, Halfnight’s play received a workshop at the Magic, a process that he loved.
The process has led to this world premiere, presenting a play about a family in crisis and the collateral damage a particular event can create. Family loyalty and the conflicts that come with it is at the heart of his work.
“I was asking myself what the nature of loyalty is within the sphere of the family, and the sphere of the civic body in society,” said Halfnight. “What do we owe our family and what do we owe society and our community when blood loyalty comes into conflict with our societal norms? What is the kind of event that puts us in that situation that makes us have to choose?
“How do we function when the loyalty to family and the people we love is in conflict with how we move about in our daily lives.”
The concepts that Halfnight brings forth in his work is challenging. It challenges the audience and it certainly challenges him as he dives into the world of the characters he creates.
“What fascinates me about it so deeply is the idea that this is a thorny, complicated thing, which I’m drawn to. There’s not a lot of bandwidth towards simple explanations. I think it sits at the heart of who we are as human beings. We are not simple creatures with simple lives – the depth of the muck underneath us is so profound, and I feel like that’s where I like to live as far as my creative process.”
There are no easy answers when it comes to analyzing and dissecting the patterns of human behavior. And there are plenty of times when loyalty and love come into direct conflict with doing what is right. These issues may never be solved. And for Halfnight, he has no plans to offer up any of his own solutions, and hopes the people who come and watch feel the same way.
“One thing I don’t want the audience to do is leave with answers. It would feel wonderful if people left asking more questions of themselves or their communities in order to push the discussion further.”
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
The Magic Theatre presents “The Resting Place”
Written by Ashlin Halfnight
Directed by Jessica Holt
Through Nov. 10th
The Magic Theatre
2 Marina Blvd, Building D, Third Floor
San Francisco, CA
Tickets range from $15 – $75
For tickets, call (415) 441-8822 or visit www.magictheatre.org