“Fault,” a brand new work by TheatreSquared resident playwright Robert Ford being staged by that company, takes us to a place Northwest Arkansans know well.
We see a world where an Arkansas Razorback football player, having ascended to national glory, looks fondly over his days as a local resident. And in his sojourn he immerses himself in the local culture – that of Pope County, Arkansas, specifically – milking the cows and crunching fall leaves underfoot. Nearly everything we see in “Fault,” minus a pair of quick stopovers in Japan, takes place either inside this absolutely beautifully staged Pope County homestead or just outside its doors. The fall foliage draped behind the stage and the leaves quite literally under the feet of patrons look like Arkansas’ best version of itself. It’s gorgeous, and TheatreSquared should be commended.
But not everything is pretty. “Fault” also takes us to a place we don’t know, and don’t want to know.
What: TheatreSquared’s “Fault”
When: Wed-Sun through Feb. 28
Where: Nadine Baum Studios, Fayetteville
Tickets: 479-443-5600 or theatre2.org
An incident at a nuclear power plant in the River Valley has created chaos in the form of death, destruction and the establishment of a do not enter zone. The nuclear reactor in question isn’t labeled as such, but it’s fairly clear the inspiration comes from the Arkansas Nuclear One near Russellville, Arkansas’ only nuclear power plant.
While the incident in question causes nationwide panic, Ford’s script instead focuses on the narrowest slice of the fallout, the dynamic of one family and those who seek to protect or harm it. That family finds its voice through Monk (played by Ryan George), a former Razorback who is now a star for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL.
He’s only allowed access into his homestead courtesy of a family friend, but a stranger, Molly (played by Rebecca Hirota), has found her way inside, too. Assigning blame for a national disaster realized locally becomes a central tenant to the action of “Fault.” With a runtime of 90 minutes, and without an intermission, viewers get into the meat of the show quickly. Everyone, including that family friend, Kemp, (played by Brian Lee Huynh), have something to conceal.
There’s an ominous tone to “Fault,” with a low industrial hum often running as background noise. Near the climax, gunshots ring throughout the hillside. There is reason to be worried. During its best moments, “Fault” layers on tension.
There’s a scary world lying underneath the surface of the world with think we love, and “Fault” reminds us of that. At every NFL game, there’s a concussion risk for the players. For each low heating bill, there are earthquakes caused by fracking. We’re also reminded of the Japanese internment camps during World War II – two of which were in Arkansas – and the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan at the conclusion of that same war. Consequences and decades-old loose threads may be the end of us, and our uncertainty is certain. You’ll want to call your mother after this show.
And you’ll likely be left wondering after this show, too.
Wondering how life goes on, wondering if any of the characters remain friends and wondering what lesson “Fault” attempts to teach.
One of the lessons rings true for Northwest Arkansas, if we choose to turn the focus locally again. “Fault” won’t rank near the top of my list of favorite TheatreSquared productions, but the organization must be admired for developing new works and giving us an opportunity to see them before the rest of the world does. No wonder Monk is compelled to come back to this part of the world – we’re lucky here.