LENOX — Patrick Brennan’s setting for Regge Life’s crisp, incisive, penetrating production of debbie tucker green’s “hang” at Shakespeare & Company’s Tina Packer Playhouse is a generic, generally featureless meeting room in some quasi-governmental office building.
The flat surface of the off-white walls on either side of the keyless door into and out of the room is broken only by a telephone, a thermostat, some bulletins and a massive air conditioning vent. Against the wall is a water cooler, a waste paper basket and a small white table on which is an inverted stack of cups.
Four strips of motion-sensitive fluorescent lighting hang high above a rectangular table at the center of the room, around which are placed four chairs.
It is a room for a reckoning; a reckoning with the past, the present, the future; a reckoning with justice ... or is it revenge? And what does justice mean in the case of a man who has been convicted of a horrifying, deeply traumatic, violent act, or acts — green never reveals the nature of the crime — committed against a Black family in their home; questions green plants squarely at the heart of her slyly constructed, profoundly unsettling drama.
Now, on this day, at this time, 3 1/2 years after the crime, the unnamed mother and wife — we know her only as Three — has in her hands the authority to determine the perpetrator’s fate.
The woman — played by Cloteal L. Horne with a burning, barely contained composure that provides the thinnest of shields against the simmering outrage, anger, pain she carries within her — is accompanied by two bureaucrats: One (Kristin Wold), who is professionally mindful of the obligations of her role, solicitous almost to a fault, and who, despite her professional detachment, offers a moment of exposure and vulnerability that Three is quick to exploit; and Two (Ken Cheeseman), who seems less practiced in dealing with a situation such as this, a quality that leads to moments of sardonic humor, especially in a sequence late in the play when Two lays out for Three the individual consequences of the various options that are available to her.
The impact of the damage from the violent intrusion has not dissipated with time. The incident has left wounds so deep and pain so profound, they may never heal. Indeed, among Horne’s more memorable moments is Three’s catalogue of the lingering effects of the incident, particularly on her daughter and son, who were 7 and 9, respectively, when a member, or members, of the family were under assault. Lives that at one point seemed settled and promising are now fractured, irretrievably it would seem. Three is doing the best she can to hold the fragments of her family members together — as a mother, as a wife, as a Black woman in America.
Horne is stunning in a performance that is mesmerizing in its measured intensity; in her ability to fully engage the roiling undercurrents that drive and possess Three; that make her a formidable immovable force.
Credit Wold and Cheeseman, especially Wold, for finding rich dimension in characters that could be easily dismissed despite all the time they spend onstage.
Life makes sure that nothing here is dismissed — from the tense emotional climate in the room to the sounds of footsteps and voices outside the room whenever the door opens to the low, steady hum of the air conditioning vent that swells to an enveloping thunder at the end of the play.
Life, green, Horne, and her actor partners get under the skin and hang in the mind long after one pinpoint of light at the very end of the show goes out.