Shows Worth Seeing:
My Daughter Keeps Our Hammer
By Brian Watkins
41 White St.
There are lots of plays in which terrible things happen to animals: Bug, The Goat, take your pick of Greek tragedies. Shepard’s Curse of the Starving Class, though, has long held the prize for “most terrible fate for a sheep.” Not anymore. The poor creature owned by the unhappy family in Brian Watkins’s My Daughter Keeps Our Hammer leaves the one in Curse looking lucky. Violence in this strange tale creeps up out of nowhere, as does sexuality, as does drama in a way. The story involves two sisters living in a nowhere Colorado town (Eaton) where they feel utterly stuck taking care of their depressed mother. Dad abandoned them years ago, leaving only a shiny truck that both girls covet, and that sheep. Push comes to shove and, well, the title hints at the rest.
The real twist is that Watkins has written the story as parallel monologues in which the sisters speak only to the audience, never to one another, and the mother never appears, all of which interestingly reinforces the sense of isolation and psychological desperation. Director Danya Taymor has done a good job maximizing the impact of this, neither exaggerating or underplaying the indirect technique and adding a bit of lovely shadowplay behind a scrim at the beginning and end. The two fine actresses (Katharine Folk-Sullivan and Layla Khoshnoudi) occasionally rub ash on themselves but otherwise stick to the central task of delivering the oratorio with gusto. There’s an odd magnetism to the piece, which comes less from the animal-cruelty itself than from the corrosive denial and obliviousness among the humans that lead to it.