September 21, 2018
Wasted, a play at Baltimore’s Center Stage through tomorrow, strikes a current chord of controversy and thrusts sharp questions into our complacency about consent in relationships. It raises new uncertainties in an increasing muddied arena.
When I bought tickets to this play, I had a feeling that it would be unlike any other stage performance I had seen. First of all, the audience arrived and walked onto the stage where we ordered and paid for drinks from a bar that was part of the set, and meandered talking with other audience members in a disco atmosphere of music and moving spotlights.
At 7:30, the audience was still on the stage when the play began with two characters making an entrance into the “bar” and beginning their dialogue. When the “bar” closed, everyone was told to leave and go home, at which point the audience went down a few steps and watched the rest of the performance from the seats.
Will Hearle plays Oli and Serena Jennings plays Emma in the play written and directed by Kat Woods. They also skillfully play other characters in the narrative such as friends, Oli’s mother and officials involved with rape investigation. Stage setting is minimalist, as well as costumes. The strength in the production is the script, directing and acting. It is definitely worth seeing.
This play is especially relevant considering the #metoo movement and accusations of sexual misconduct (perhaps attempted rape) at a teenage party several decades ago made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Jurist Kavanaugh’s boyhood friend Mark Judge writes about their social teen life of drunken parties. Kavanaugh and Judge deny Ford’s allegations.
But back to Wasted, where two young people get wasted with booze that leads them to dark places with consequences that can affect them for years. The next morning, Emma can’t remember what happened but has a bad feeling. Her friend suggests that Oli had sex with her without her consent while she was passed out. Then things go down the rabbit hole.
Like the purported Kavanaugh teen party, both of these stories begin with alcohol—way too much. Things happen, some of which players do not remember. Emma blames herself and Oli is shocked when it is suggested that he had raped someone. Kavanaugh alleges that it never happened and that he doesn’t remember the party. Ford says she remembers being held down, hands pulling at her clothes and a hand over her mouth, and these memories have remained with her across decades, even while trying to forget.
Playwright Woods does not judge but, rather, presents the story from different perspectives. The audience holds empathy for both characters because truth is sometimes murky. She leaves it up to the audience to come up with their own answers.
The big question is how to define consent and this was addressed after the play in a Q&A between the audience, cast members, playwright and Katie Wicklund a legal advocate from the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
When I was growing up, there was no sex education in schools, but this has gradually changed. Wicklund says sex education is evolving into consent education, eventually to be taught age-appropriately to kindergarten through college.
We’ve come a long way and now understand that we need to define consent and communicate this to young people. There have been too many lives wasted because no one knows the definition.