16 Spells is a play in 17 scenes. Lillian Davis is a mature, metropolitan housewife living on the 42nd floor of an upscale, rent-controlled building in a city that could be Manhattan. She takes great pride in the view of the skyline as seen through her sliding glass door, a view which is becoming more and more obscured by incessant construction and skyscraper expansion. At age 55, Lillian Davis sits down to write her will, outlining the contents and distribution of her earthly possessions. As she writes, a beast, a bona fide beast, spies on her through a telescope in his crappy, Cro-Magnon apartment across town. As Lillian writes, a crises ensues: Does she really have anything that is truly her own? The beast packs his bags. Does she have the capability to own anything ? The beast creeps across town. Has she ever done anything in her life that is worth writing down? The beast scales her building, approaching the 42nd floor.
Over the course of 17 scenes which leap back and forth through time, the audience comes to know the depth of Lillian's identity crisis, and complex emotional stakes hiding just beneath her deceptively simple surface. The play offers the audience a multi-faceted view of Lillian?s world. Sometimes, the audience is outside the window, examining Lillian from afar. Sometimes, the audience telescopes in, witnessing the private terrain of her hopes and fears. At almost any time, people watching the play may feel they are riding the wave of Lillian?s subconscious, viewing her life from the inside out.
As Lillian's very own beast gets closer and closer to her home and heart, the source of her pain becomes more difficult to disguise. By the play's end, characters have removed masks, revealed hidden children, shattered spells and confessed their deepest fears. Only then can the dastardly building that obscures Lillian?s view magically disintegrate, and transform into a peaceful, wondrous terrain.
I workshopped this piece a year ago in the Clubbed Thumb Summerworks Festival in New York City. I collaborated with a director and an installation artist, who helped us design the intricate play-world of the piece.
16 Spells will be produced in Minneapolis in November, 2002 and Austin, TX in February 2003. Critical response coming soon!