How do you decide whether someone should die? Hang, written by Debbie Tucker Green and presented by Yellow Jacket Productions’ dynamic all-female cast, asks that very question. The play centers in on one victim, played with vigor and equal parts rage and grief by stand out lead Tiannah Viechwag.
Set in the near future, in a United Kingdom where capital punishment is once again legal, it is up the victim of the crime to decide if and how their attacker will die. The victim must answer to two (rather inept) government officials, played with aplomb by Kim Christie and Jessica Flood, whose desperate attempts to comfort the victim only further agitate her. Between the three characters, a sentence must drawn up in order to close the case.
The strength of the piece is the attention that it gives to the emotional impact that violent and tragic crimes have on innocent lives. The victim’s family lives a fear-ridden existence, the root of which is mere the possibility that their attacker will return to wreak havoc, or worse, on their lives. So the victim is certain; she wants him hanged.
Hang, however leaves something unanswered. What exactly happened to the victim’s family? Did an armed intruder rob them? Was someone, possibly the victim or one of her children, violently attacked? Was someone in fact killed? There’s no way to know, as the victim’s accounts of the incident are largely emotional – the screams of her children, his blue eyes glaring at her.
Although the emotional focus on the events tells a poignant story, and in this case gives room for Ms. Viechwag’s talent to shine, it leaves us asking the question: what crime could – should – someone die for committing? We don’t know the specifics of the crime, and this omission makes it difficult to fully understand the victim’s pain.
The death penalty is currently illegal in most western nations, the United States being the exception. There, most states with legal capital punishment use it for homicidal crimes. In a few cases, the death penalty can be used for non-homicidal crimes, especially the kidnapping and rape of a child. In this hypothetical Great Britain, what is the law? Can it be a sentence for a non-homicidal crime? Of course, the larger question, is whether or not the death penalty should be a part of our future at all.
With a dramatic score and observant direction by Kevin Russell, Yellow Jacket’s Hang does an exquisite job of making you feel the weight of both the crime and the punishment.