The Hippodrome Theatre is continuing its season theme of “Breaking Boundaries” by posing to audiences an impossible question: “What would you say to the father of the man who killed your son?”
“The Blameless,” written by Nick Gandiello, is the Hippodrome’s second show this season following its opener “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” and is playing from Oct. 11 through Nov. 3. This is only the play’s second theatrical run and its first time premiering on the East Coast.
“The Blameless” gives the audience profound insight on an unthinkable loss — the Garcia family honoring the one-year anniversary of the death of their son, Jesse, who died in a school shooting. Their evening is further complicated as the Garcias invite the father of the man who took their son’s life to dinner.
The show dives into a pool of political and emotional severity with an artful approach, using the humor, heartbreak and ultimate hope of the Garcia family to bring to life a situation that, for most, would be unimaginable.
“It’s an important journey,” Stephanie Lynge, the director of the show, said. “I think it opens up a great human space for us all to be in together.”
Lynge says that she is eager for the Gainesville community to see the play and she hopes the show will allow them to broaden their perspectives.
“I hope the audience leaves and talks to the people they came with or talks to the people they sat with and maybe are more empathetic to people on the other side of what’s going on,” Lynge said. “I think that’s what brings us together and keeps us together as a community, is our empathy.”
Diana and Alex Garcia, portrayed by actors Maryann Towne and Alberto Bonilla respectively, paint a stellar picture of two parents doing everything they can to survive a gut-wrenching loss. Though neither actor has any children, audiences are left without any doubt that the death of their son turned the Garcias’ lives upside down — and they are desperately trying to put them back together again, even a year later.
Undeniably the most complex character to empathize with is Drew Davis, the father of the man who took the lives of Jesse and five other students, played by actor Tim Altmeyer. Altmeyer's Drew is a man with unthinkable sorrows; as others call for justice and refer to his son as a monster, Drew barely manages to grieve the loss of the boy that he loved. He is a character audiences don’t go in expecting to sympathize with, but Altmeyer’s organic acting leaves it impossible for audiences to hate him.
“The Blameless” is a show that is as emotional as it is enjoyable, discussing a controversial topic in a domestic, personal way that cannot be found in the news. The show doesn’t offer answers, but instead provides closure, and it is this hope for the future that best characterizes the journey of the play.
“I think we become acutely aware of daily life when somebody whom we possibly take for granted is gone,” Altmeyer said. “The idea of grief and loss being explored, not legal battles, not the legal ramifications of the issue, the human loss, that is why I like this play so much.”
“The Blameless” premieres this Friday at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased on the Hippodrome’s website now.