de Courcy as Veronica. Photos by Ian Carmody
Roots of Addiction Hard to Pull
By Lauren Yarger
Addictions control the lives of a mother and daughter and keep them in a cycle of dependence and poverty in Colin McKenna’s The Secret Agenda of Trees off-Broadway at the Wild Project (which played through Saturday).
Maggie (Lillian Wright) tries to take care of her daughter Veronica (Reyna de Courcy) when she’s not working at the nearby meat-packing plant, taking hits of crystal meth, drinking or having sex with strangers. In reality, Veronica cares for herself in the shack, set in the Deep South, and comforts herself with fanciful and poetic stories about her soldier brother Dixon (Brian Reilly) who is missing in action and her gang-banger-in-training boyfriend Carlos (Christian Navarro). Sometimes she tries to pretend they are "a family or something.”
The tension becomes palpable when Maggie invites a drifter named Jack (Michael Tisdale) to move in. He clashes with Carlos and has less than desirable intentions toward Veronica, whom he encourages to smoke and drink. When Veronica barely survives an overdose after a meth session with Carlos, Maggie decides to kick the habit before the state takes Veronica away, even as Jack is setting up a meth lab in their home.
McKenna’s treatment of the dark subject is handled well, though Veronica’s strange poetry seems out of place and isn’t always clear in its message. Director Michael Kimmel doesn’t ignite any heat between Jack and Maggie who supposedly meet and tumble into bed. There’s less physical attraction between Carlos and Veronica (who lusts after him verbally, telling us she wants to lick his tattoos) so much of the action feels predictable, rote and as rooted as the trees that Veronica tells us “claw the sky” with a secret agenda to escape. The method Maggie chooses to dry out seems contrived as well, and the ending for which we’re hoping gets jackknifed twice, but in a way, this is a tribute to McKenna’s realistic treatment of drug dependence – there isn’t always a happy ending.
The highlight performance is from de Courcy who infuses 14-year-old Veronica with a youthful charm and exuberance balanced with strength and determination far beyond her years.
Christians might also like to know:
• Sexual Activity (sounds are heard from an adjoining room, but not depicted)
• Sex Outside of Marriage
• Drug Use Depicted throughout