Quote of the Day: “Ironbound” is an amazingly good script, and deceptively challenging. With immigration issues roiling our culture, with women continuing to fight for equity and agency, with the struggles of just getting by in life not seeming to get any easier, this seemed to be an excellent vehicle for a Frank adventure. Wendy Knox, director of Frank Theatre and the play Ironbound by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Martyna Majok. I can’t stop thinking about this one.
The play Ironbound by Martyna Majok is about a Polish immigrant woman Darya, played with tremendous emotion and heart by Brittany D. Parker. She has come to America with her husband Maks (Benjamin Dutcher) when they are both still young, in their early 20’s. They come seeking the American dream, a better life, a home, stability, a comfortable living. What they get is hardship, strain on their relationship, and broken dreams.
The setting for the play is a bus stop, where Darya is always waiting. The time is 2014 (when the play premiered) and a few flashback scenes to 1992 when Darya and Maks are working for a factory in New Jersey, back to 2014 and Darya’s continued struggle to earn a living, and back again to a an earlier time when her son is a teenager, 2008. The time jumps are always clear, with a flash of the year projected on the set, and clothing changes, as well as who is in the scene and what they’re talking about.
In the scene in 2008, Darya is struggling to leave an abusive relationship. She’s trying to find shelter at the bus stop, or the factory where she worked, but ends up lying down on the street. A young man, Vic (Jack Bonko) sees her and offers to help. Everything to Darya is a transaction. She is not comfortable taking money from this kid who is barely older than her son, or getting a ride with him. She does want to talk to him. Perhaps she sees something in him that reminds her of her son. Perhaps that gives her strength to get out of the abusive relationship she’s in and find her son.
We keep coming back to 2014, and Darya waiting for that bus. Her current boyfriend Tommy (Carl Schoenborn) comes looking for her. He’s sorry for cheating on her. He wants her to come home. She doesn’t trust him anymore, but she also doesn’t have many choices. We see her heartache, and feel the hopelessness with her. She needs to catch a break, but never gets one.
We stayed for the post-play discussion on Sunday. We talked about the choices Darya made throughout her journey. Some agreed with them, some did not. But, we don’t know the whole story. We’re getting snapshots of her life, the pivotal moments, the crossroads, and waiting. One audience member pointed out that everything in life is a transaction. Darya knows that if she accepts help, a ride, money, a place to stay, that something will be expected of her. “If I take this, what do I have to give?” That theme has stuck with me the most. That, and the tremendous performances of these four fine actors coupled with the exceptional direction by Wendy Knox. Costumes by Amelia Cheever. Dan Dukich is the sound designer, and Gillian Constable is the dialect coach. Scenic design by Joe Stanley.
You can still catch this show, Ironbound by the Frank Theatre, performed at the Gremlin Theater in St. Paul, through Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. It’s a thought-provoking play, and I encourage you to see it with a friend who will discuss it with you afterwards. If you have thoughts, leave them here, because I can’t stop thinking about this one.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: Have you ever experienced insecurity in your home, relationships, or basic needs like food and shelter? Do you know anyone who has? Have you ever helped someone get to a better place?