“17 Minutes” is a play about the aftermath of a school shooting. The plays main crux is that a police officer who has eleven years on the force, a former Army veteran, stood by while twelve students were killed. In the shootings aftermath, we see how people react, the anger and resentment that goes with a tragedy like this. Throughout the play we try to figure out what was going through Andy Rubens (Larry Mitchell) mind. Rubens has been sober for eleven years as he tells the interrogator, detective Virgil Morris. Morris tries to give a fellow cop the benefit of the doubt when he asks about the shooting. It becomes quite obvious from the beginning that Rubens has something to hide in regards to what exactly happened that day.
Under Weisbard’s industrial lighting, Rubens can never escape; never escape the spotlight of what happened; the effects of his inactivity and his life and what it has now become. Under heavy lighting, everyone, in fact, is under the white hot lights; for ninety intermission less minutes and seven scenes, everything gets a once, twice over to fully determine what happened.
although it is “Somewhere in the United States of America”, the costumes are familiar. The police have the standard glocks, police uniforms that are pretty much routine throughout the country. Matsy Stinson has the mace, the bullet holders, and pretty much all the equipment that of an officer down to the footwear. Stinson brings the audience closer to this play with the costuming because of their subtle effects.
Under Seth Barrish, the direction, as the writing by Scott Organ, never get’s its footing. To much story and not enough time given to it’s plot really hampers this show. Organ touches on many subjects but none of which are deep. Why did Rubens freeze? What happened in his life that made him drink? Why did Mary Stevens (Shannon Patterson)become the hero? She captured the shooter. The shooter himself had no former history of violence nor did he come from an unhappy home. When we meet his dad Dan, he explains how he was the most hated man in town, aside from maybe Rubens.
The what if’s begin to be brought out…. what if dan locked up his gun, what if he drove his son to school that day, what if Andy Rubens did his job that day. With Andy’s wife, Samantha feeling the heat for her husband as well as financial heat with the firing of Andy, she too starts with the what if’s… What if they moved, what if he took another job in another field. The problem with the what if’s in “17 Minutes” is that the what if’s are only superficial like the play itself. “17” never goes deep into the surface, it only scratches it. The direction never let’s the actors commit fully to this play. Lee Brock who plays a mother who’s child was killed is unemotional, almost robotic in the way she speaks her lines. Under Barrish’s direction, no actor is a force in what should be an emotional play.
Given the subject matter about guns and random shootings, this play could and should have gone deeper but it did not. Thankfully the play was not politically charged, however, just on parents losing their children in a senseless act alone should have been fadder for electricity. For this play to only be ninety minutes, it should have focused on two, maybe three things. Instead, “17 Minutes” tried to be too much in too little time to do so.