Emily Farris is an energetic and engaging playwright.
As a junior at Anderson University, Farris has already shown insight into and compassion for the lives of her characters.
That's true in "Bother," the current original production by the innovative Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project. Directed by AU's Director of Theatre Studies Ronn Johnstone, performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with a 2:30 p.m. matinee Sunday, at Byrum Hall on the campus.
It is also, sadly, the last Wisdom Tooth show at AU, which has altered its theater department. In fact, "Bother" would have been Farris' production as a senior; it's on stage now in her junior year due to the cutbacks.
"Bother" focuses on a police investigation into the recent death of a husband, Benny (played by Josh Maldonado), who has emotionally abused his wife, Mina (Katie Judge).
Tensions form quickly as the play jumps right into the interrogation of Nina by detective Jon (a formidable Aaron Jones). Next to them, at all times, is a ghostly figure of Nina's deceased sister; her death haunts Nina. The detective has investigated both deaths but he seemed incapable, or plain ignorant, of detecting the underlying cause of the sister's demise.
The action moves throughout three parts of the stage, including the couple's tenement apartment. It is the spot where three guys play poker one evening — they are bad at bluffing — and it is where the couple has a horrible argument.
The death investigation moves swiftly and Farris adroitly postpones the solution until the end.
The core of the play is in the couple's relationship; it is where the mystery has been headed since the start.
Josh Maldonado, a sophomore, has to walk a tightrope turning a seemingly quiet guy into an explosive monster. The balancing act works here, in part, due to Katie Judge's calming nature. Judge, also a sophomore, captures the complexities of living with an abuser. She defends him while keeping an eye on a possible escape.