“People is my priority, Jer-Jer, not property.”
Mary, first floor manager of Brady’s, a department store in Chicago, says this as she staples packets together with Jerrod, a security guard. The night before, a group of protesters smashed the entire first floor to pieces. Angry with the company’s lack of diversity and inclusion, those protesters and Mary hope for massive change. As if a centuries-old, hope-filled dam had been burst, Mary speaks rapidly about the events of last night.
Jerrod, on the other hand, is hesitant. He has no opinion. Irritation laces Mary’s voice at Jerrod’s indecision. She commands his attention and tells him not to interrupt her. To her, sitting on the fence about an event like this is dangerous, especially when so many lives are at stake. Mary’s fierce dedication and fervor compels our attention.
Primer, an audio play written by Broken Nose Theatre ensemble member Spenser Davis, takes a deep dive into the dangers of placing property over people. This one act of looting sends Brady’s and its employees into a heavy, but necessary discussion about racism, violence, and equity. Every conversation we hear pulls the curtain back from society an inch more.
Broken Nose Theatre’s Characters Reveal Their Truths
It can be difficult to distinguish between characters in an audio play, but with the expertise of this talented cast, we can piece each character out of the group. During specific moments, multiple voices argue with each other. Mary’s strong, no-nonsense voice gives us an image of a store manager who should really be an army general. Jerrod’s nervousness and goody-two-shoes demeanor is easy to pick out. The valley girl-esque voice of Kennedy cuts through the shouting, reminding us she’s there. Regardless of who they are, we feel compelled to listen to their stories, especially since this play is about the real-world events we all experienced in 2020.
We Are Drawn into Broken Nose Theatre’s Story
We hear glass crunching underfoot, and later we hear receipt paper being ripped apart. The muffled voices of people speaking on the phone and people clearing their throats in a silent conference room help us imagine the environment of the story. These sound effects might seem like small pieces of Primer, but they help us to see the story in our minds. Like this reviewer, you too may feel as if you are really in the glass-strewn first floor of Brady’s. For a play as earth-shattering as this one, these layers of sound make the final piece that much more real.
Primer is a good choice for those looking for an audio play that entertains and informs. Those looking for a show with visuals and less realism should look elsewhere.
Brenda Scott Wlazlo
Directed by: Brittney Brown
Written by: Spenser Davis
Sound Design by: Tony Ingram
Edited by: Jacqui Jaurena
Audio Engineer: Andrew Ryan
Captioning by: Jen Poulin
Dramaturg: David Weiss
November 15 – December 5, 2021
About the Author: Annabelle Harsch
Annabelle has perpetual graphite smears on her hands from stories she wrote. She’s written about secrets and regret, but her favorite things to write about are love and dragons, good or bad. When Annabelle isn’t reading and writing, she’s usually hiking or buying plants and books.