David Sard, Gifted Playwright, Interweaves Sophocles,
Freud & Life on the Street
Eddie, Joe, Larry, Sophocles, Freud? It’s not necessary to recognize that in “The Ballad of Eddie and Joe” playwright David Sard is cleverly - and movingly - riffing on the story of Oedipus, but seeing how the Greek myth has been turned into fierce and affecting contemporary theater about foster care, slum life, turf crime and the search for love, certainly adds to the appreciation. The drama, which won the International One Act Play Contest sponsored by the Strasberg Theatre Institute in 2004, and, in revised form, had its world premiere at the Hudson Guild Theatre on West 26th Street last month, owes its origin to Sard’s intellectual curiosity as a clinical psychologist working in schools, hospitals, jails and the foster-care system in NY and NJ, and his compassionate regard for the youngsters he saw, victims of poor neighborhoods and of the universal struggle to find a way “to independence through the sexually charged minefields of familial intimacy and parental demands.”
The ancient myth was especially compelling to Sard because Oedipus, that most unfortunate of tragic heroes, inevitably undone by “misplaced, impossible love” and driven by “unredeemable guilt” to sacrifice, had also grown into an impassioned seeker of truth and justice. Eddie (Oed-ipus), abandoned by his teenage mother Jo (Jocasta) inadvertently (inevitably, to Freud) kills his arrogant father Larry (Laius) and winds up marrying the widow, an older woman to whom he is mysteriously attracted (as she is to him). As his forebear in the Greek play who desperately wants to rid Thebes of a plague, Eddie involves himself in a campaign to clean up his local neighborhood, especially abandoned buildings rife with cancer-causing chemicals, and to rid the streets of corrupt criminals and politicians. He does not understand that he had been set up to kill Larry, a bullying king pin hated by both his underlings and the police, but Eddie instinctively—and heroically—perseveres. The play begins and ends with an old, blind and infirm Eddie who looks back on the events with sadness and resignation.
“The Ballad of Eddie and Jo” ran for three weeks at The Hudson Guild, a Chelsea community center that seeks through its many diverse services to “empower all individuals and families to achieve their highest potential, while maintaining a priority focus on those in economic need.” The cast included Michael Citriniti, Angelo Rosso (in a tour-de-force turn as Eddie), Ana Mercedes Torres, Stephen Innocenzi, Jerry Rago, Joyce Griffen and Anita Velez Mitchell. Kudos should also go to the costume designer, Raul Aktanov, the scenic artist and designer and technical director, Alan Bolle, the lighting designer, Alex Moore and the production stage manager, Denise Zeiler -- but most of all, in addition to David Sard, to Lorca Peress, a top-notch director who helped shaped the many versions of the play in its development and whose expertise in integrating all the elements of stage production are on admirable display here. Those familiar with Athenian theatre will recognize the homage she pays to the Greeks by using “an open stage, platform and chorus,” but all will sense the authenticity of her realization of Sard’s rough-and-tumble working-class world, the `hood that devours so many young people but that cannot and must not kill their capacity and their need for love.
It is hoped that this provocative and imaginatively executed theatrical work will find another home, soon and that high school English and social studies teachers will somehow find a way to get “The Ballad of Eddie and Jo” in their curricula. For further information, contact the author - firstname.lastname@example.org.#