Can I tell you a secret? Okay, well – what if I can’t? It’s not that I don’t trust you. It’s just, well, what if I have a secret that’s so damaging I could lose your friendship? Or your respect? Or risk having you take matters into your own hands and tell my secret to the very person I’m keeping it from? You could change my life. You could change theirs. You could change everything. Now you know why I’m keeping it a secret. Even from you. Some things are just better left unsaid.
Better Left Unsaid (written and directed by Joey Brenneman) juggles not one, not two, but over half a dozen secrets ranging from “deep dark” to simply “uncomfortable”. The rule here is: if a character has a line of dialogue, they have a secret. Some are enormous, life changing and devastating, some are simple, quiet, and more of the yearning variety, but all of them are harmful in their own way and once they’re put into words it changes the course of each character’s life irrevocably. As the old saying goes: you can’t unring a bell.
Better Left Unsaid follows the lives of eight New York City people who, on the surface, are just like the rest of us. William (Dathan B. Williams) and Maggie (Jennifer Dorr White) are old friends meeting for coffee after nearly 40 years, Carla (Jessica Arinella) is hanging out with her sister Luisa (Kathryn Velvel Jones) before fatefully bumping into an old boyfriend, Scott (Miguel Govea). DJ (Marcus Ho) has been buddies with Luisa’s husband Nick (Craig Waletzko) for years and has always been that shoulder to lean on – for both of them. And Lennie (Monique Lola Berkley) somehow manages to come in contact with almost all of them – related to some, friends with others, she sets a lot of the story in motion.
Better Left Unsaid is a true ensemble piece; each story line is its own focal point but also acts as the fulcrum of the adjoining story so that as the audience begins to make the connections between the characters the stakes become higher. Plots include a husband’s infidelity, a decision to keep a father’s identity a secret for a child’s lifetime, and unrequited (or perhaps not) love. What makes Better Left Unsaid so successful is how honestly it is acted by this gifted ensemble. There are moments that are unbearably real – such as when Luisa is throwing her child’s birthday cupcakes at her husband, Nick, out of frustration at the perfect facade he was able to create during the party despite having cheated on her. Jones sharply captures the raw emotion of a woman who is devastated by her husband’s duplicity, yet still needs to cling to the shrapnel of what they have left, even if it means having to cope with the inability of knowing how she will react from one moment to the next. Yet theirs is just one of the stories – all of them are equally intriguing and deftly delivered by the talented cast.
One thing different about Better Left Unsaid is that it is being offered as an interactive live streamed play which can be watched from anywhere in the world – in addition to live in the theatre. This added element does mean several things: if you attend in person be prepared for the cameras – most of which are unobtrusive – but which (at least the night I was there) have a tendency to break some of the flow by keeping their communication devices a little too high. Several times I was keenly aware of directions squawking over the walkie-talkie from the back camera positioned in the audience. It wasn’t enough to completely break my concentration, but it’s something to consider if you’re easily distracted. Similarly, the cameras roam around in order to capture the audience before hand and during intermission so if you have an issue with being filmed you should know this ahead of time and either step out, or look your camera-ready best.
Aside from those small considerations, the idea of bringing live New York theatre to the world is a thrilling one, and I fully intend to check out a future show as it streams right to my living room. Information on how to do that can be found at the end of this post.
Better Left Unsaid is a raw, dramatic, honest piece of theatre that doesn’t shy away from some of life’s harder lessons. The script doesn’t make easy choices, and the actors don’t either. Together, this is one strong production that should be witnessed, regardless of how you choose to tune in.
~~~Better Left Unsaid Joey Brenneman (Playwright/Director/Producer) Playing until February 6th
(in the Theater) Center Stage NY 48 West 21st Street (5th & 6th) 4th Floor Click Here for information on how to purchase tickets to the live show / how to get the password for the streaming show **All Online Tickets Sold By Suggested Donation**