Review: "Wounded" Goes Beyond Bone Deep

Wounded

Written by Jiggs Burgess

Directed by Del Shores

Presented by Beard Collins Shores Productions at SoHo Playhouse

15 Vandam St., Manhattan, NYC

January 24-February 11, 2024

Shaw Jones and Craig Taggart in Wounded. Courtesy of Beard Collins Shores Productions.
At one point in Wounded, a mesmerizing two-hander from playwright Jiggs Burgess, a man named Carrol (Craig Taggart) observes that one's roots can shift from providing a sense of protection to holding one back; and, indeed, in this play, the past, tied inseparably to the small hometown to which Carrol and his friend from youth, Robert (Shaw Jones) find themselves having returned to as middle-aged adults, inescapably ensnares the present. Carrol and Robert's reunion gradually and compellingly excavates the ways in which they have been shaped by their past environment as much as by their individual choices, personalities, addictions, and errors, and, in one significant instance, as much by intentional inaction as by any action. This production of Wounded (which the program notes is updated from its initial staging at the Hollywood Fringe Festival yet still condensed) is part of the 2024 International Fringe Encore Series, an annual event that showcases emerging artists who show exceptional talent at each season’s fringe festivals. This year's International Fringe Encore Series runs through February 11th at the SoHo Playhouse, and the full schedule is available here.

Carrol is a voluble queer man (an identity which he sees as involving more than just being gay) who has named and has conversations with the hummingbirds around his home and a grievance with the neighbors' dog. The kimono and silk pants that he wears for a visit by Robert are complemented by a spread of food appropriate for a hotel buffet. Carrol claims that food–both making and consuming it–is one of his personal crutches. Robert's, drugs and alcohol, are darker and connected to his time in prison. Now both on parole and sober, Robert has ended up living with his parents and helping to care for his father, a situation which he increasingly feels the need to escape and which parallels the more successful Carrol's reasons for returning to the town of Nowhere, Texas (pronounced "Now-Here"). The pair's catching up on such developments soon enough gives way to them delving into their shared past, a process which even early on hints at differing perspectives on these memories. Those differences find an echo in Jones and Taggart's superb performances, which effectively contrast Robert's steady reserve with the talkative and easily flustered Carrol while pointing to further layers which undermine any simple dichotomies. Carrol's behavior sometimes prevents Robert from communicating, moments that Jones at times gives a flavor or frustrated urgency, while occasionally, the way in which Taggart delivers a line, for instance, reveals a glimpse of calculation underlying his garrulousness. As tensions increase and the (largely) friendly façade that each character presents to the other threatens to fracture, the play repeatedly uncovers still deeper interpersonal currents.
Craig Taggart and Shaw Jones in Wounded. Courtesy of Beard Collins Shores Productions.
Some people, Wounded attests, have long memories, especially when it comes to wounds, in whatever sense, that have been inflicted on them. The show demonstrates too that sharing aspects of an identity does not guarantee any kind of solidarity. By turns funny and ferocious and capped with an eruptive climax, Wounded may just linger in the back of your mind the next time you make plans to reconnect with an old, old friend.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards

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