Fault Lines

Off-Off-Broadway, Play

Location: Abingdon Theater Company

Anais Alexandra, Jenna Doolittle and Rebecca Louise Miller reflect on their past in Fault Lines.

BOTTOM LINE: Moving and sad, this play reminds us that life goes on even in the face of tragedy...and tragedy shapes lives whether we like it or not.

What happens when three childhood friends who are very different from each other reconnect after twenty years? I suppose that's an interesting character study from any perspective, seeing as how priorities and personalities can warp drastically as people grow up. After all, there is a reason most people grow apart from their childhood friends, choosing to stay close with friends from college and adulthood instead. In Fault Lines, a new play by Rebecca Louise Miller, three very different women come together after decades apart. Jessica is an activist in Manhattan, Kat is a new mom struggling with her own inner demons, and Bethany is a Christian mother of twins always trying to look on the bright side of life. But something binds these women together despite their differences: when they were children, they witnessed their friend get kidnapped from a slumber party they all attended.

Based on the real story of the 1990s kidnapping of Polly Klaas, Fault Lines takes a terribly tragic story and fast-forwards it twenty years to uncover how the survivors are affected by the trauma. As a psychological study, it's quite interesting and certainly feels rooted in reality. Jessica (Rebecca Louise Miller, also the playwright) works for the Nina Foundation, a non-profit named after her late friend. She spends her life fighting child abduction and it consumes her fully. On the other hand, Bethany (Jenna Doolittle) has found religion and chooses to look at the situation positively, even going as far as to forgive her friend's killer who is now on death row. Kat (Anais Alexandra) has some serious anger issues and along with some adult drama she's dealing with, seems like she's reached the end of her emotional rope. Putting the three together in a heightened situation (they reunite at Bethany's request to witness the execution of Nina's murderer) ensures a passionate gathering with emotions running high.

Miller's play is written with a respectful hand, carefully recognizing everyone's grief while making sure each character is sincere and truthful. All three women are understandably unstable. She also does an impressive job delicately bringing such a horrible story to life; since the play takes place after so much time, the dialogue is reflective in a way that gets the facts across and lets the audience in on the past without dwelling or belaboring the point. As a character study, Fault Lines is a fascinating experience.

Albeit a satisfying production, the play's biggest problem is it's inactivity, since everything at stake really happened in the past. Sure, conflict is built into the story: Jessica wants the women to do an interview with her colleague Grayson (Tobin Ludwig) and they feel like they will be unfairly exploited; Bethany wants them to forgive Nina's killer and you can be sure that's never going to happen. And certainly tempers flair throughout the play and conflicts create impasses. Even still, I never felt like anything was actually going to happen to these women. They might have a change of heart and begin to understand one another, but that mental growth doesn't make for exciting plot development. Fault Lines, although enjoyable to watch, never surprised me.

Invisible City Theater Company does a notable job with the production as a whole. Visually, set designer Ira Haskell deftly creates Bethany's modern Northern California home with only a few specific set pieces. When the scene moves outside or requires a larger playing space, the set pieces are stored to create more room. The tiny theatre is made to feel like a quaint, well-kept house, although the lack of space creates a pressure cooker effect as emotions rage. Joe W. Nova's lighting design also adds a nice effect to the stage, setting the mood throughout the piece.

Fault Lines introduces a powerful topic and offers a 90 minute unraveling of opinions and memories that is passionate, plausible and devastating. Miller's script is both insightful and respectful of an issue that could feel indulgent in the wrong hands. I should point out that there are impressive performances (Doolittle and Miller are immensely attuned to their characters; they deliver multi-faceted interpretations of their inner struggles with grace). But all of the actors are a little young to be playing 30-year-olds and I couldn't help but feel that the production, although mostly satisfying, felt a little trite in such young, unweathered hands. But that aside, Fault Lines is a worthy piece of theatre and Miller is a playwright to watch.

(Fault Lines plays through December 19, Tuesday through Friday at 8:00pm; Saturday at 3:00pm and 8:00pm and Sunday at 3:00pm, at the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre in the Abingdon Theatre Complex, 312 West 36th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues. Tickets are $20 and can be reserved by calling TheaterMania at 212-352-3101 or online at For more information, please visit