Capital Fringe Review: ‘The Mercy Seat’ by Sydney-Chanele Dawkins

Life can be tough.
Some people are born with the cards stacked against them.

For others, life is a series of miscalculations and bad decisions…

It’s the day after 09-11-2001. Life is tough for the two individuals involved in a complicated relationship in Neil LaBute’s The Mercy Seat, the hard hitting drama presented by The Capital City Players of Washington, D.C. at the Capital Hill Arts Workshop as a part of this month’s Capital Fringe Festival. The Mercy Seat is a smartly performed, verbal showdown, high stakes game of intense drama and emotional warfare that will find viewers on the edge of their seats.

The events of 9-11 leave a searing resonance – painful, unforgettable memories for most Americans. Yet, The Mercy Seat is not reminiscent. This day after 9-11 play isnot about the 9-11 tragedy, heroes, or patriotism.

Still, The Mercy Seat is tragic.

This is a play about the tragic realities of human drama in a fairly common relationship – that of adulterer and mistress. The married Ben Harcourt (Eric Kennedy) is a man willing to risk everything – his marriage, his two daughters, and even his three year love affair – for the chance to rewrite his life story and start anew. A do over. Ben’s repressed anger and self-hate smolders like a volcano ready to blow; and Kennedy is dynamic with his portrayal.

The electrifying Devora Zack is superb as the high-strung, unrelenting Abby Prescott, a career woman in Human Resources working her way up Corporate America. She is feisty, independent, well paid, and presumably in love with Ben, but she’s conflicted. Abby is dealing with major issues in her life, …well two. Besides her boyfriend being married, Abby and Ben work together. She’s been promoted and now she’s his supervisor. Major issue number two (or is that three)? Ben wants to pretend that he’s dead, change his identity, and he wants her to go on the lam with him.

One life ends… another begins.

The Mercy Seat is a brave choice of theater for both The Capital City Players in it’s production as well as for the adventurous theater goer. The Mercy Seat is brutal – a gritty, combative, emotional rollercoaster. Buckle your seat-belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. But, it’s like the car wreck on the side of the road – you can’t look away.

The Mercy Seat is not to be enjoyed, but endured, and this firecracker production is well worth the cost of admission.

Life can be tough, but no one said life would be easy.

For more information and to purchase tickets, go to our Fringe Preview.


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Sydney-Chanele Dawkins
Sydney-Chanele Dawkins is an award-winning feature filmmaker, film curator, film festival producer and a theater/film critic and arts writer. She also serves as an impassioned advocate for the Arts as Chair of the Alexandria Commission for the Arts in Alexandria, VA. Fearless. Tenacious. Passionate. Loyal. These characteristics best describe Sydney-Chanele's approach to life, her enthusiasm for live theater and the arts, and her cinephile obsession with world cinema. Her successful first film, 'Modern Love is Automatic' premiered at SXSW in Austin, Texas, and made its European debut at the Edinburgh Film Festival. She recently completed her third film, the animated - 'The Wonderful Woes of Marsh' - which is rounding the film festival circuit. In 2013, Sydney-Chanele produced the box office hit,Neil Simon's Rumors for the McLean Community Players at Alden Theater, Her next producing effort in 2014 is Pearl Cleage's 'Blues for an Alabama Sky' for Port City Playhouse. Programmer for Cinema Art Bethesda and Co Chair of the Film Program for Artomatic, Sydney-Chanele is the past Festival Director of the Alexandria Film Festival, the Reel Independent Film Festival,and Female Shorts & Video Showcase. She is active in leadership and programming positions with DC Metro area Film Festivals including: Filmfest DC, DC Shorts, the Washington Jewish Film Festival, Arabian Sights Film festival, and AFI Docs. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions - [email protected] [Note: Sydney-Chanele Dawkins passed away on July 8, 2015, at age 47, after a battle with Breast Cancer.]


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