In the simplest of terms, Carapace tells the story of a flawed Minneapolis father searching for redemption. Jeff, the father and antihero, pushes away his speech-impeded daughter, Margo, through tasteless attitudes and destructive habits. He fails in most ways to play the role of a supportive father: he forgets her birthdays, disregards her interests and acts out of self-indulgence. Carapace is a marvelous story that aims to define how we live and love, and how a poor balance of these qualities can be destructive to others. The acting is sublime, and the direction and writing are about as close to perfection as a play can get. It is a tragedy at its very core, and it is good drama.
The story follows a time-fractured narrative that jumps back and forth between past and present as Jeff recalls the critical points in his relationship with Margo. Jeff, who speaks directly to the audience, tends to jump in and out of his memories seamlessly, as if they were vendors at a grocery market.
One moment he would be detached from the action and spilling his soul to the audience, and at the next, he would simply walk into the frame of action and resume the role of his past self. This is a remarkable method of storytelling that provides key opportunities to dissect our antihero, as well as the conflict.
The play opens with Jeff sitting in the driver seat of his car, in present time, roughly two years after the two broke all forms of contact with each other. He is apparently troubled. He begins a most delightful opening monologue that would summarize his relationship with his daughter. He would recall how, every day after school would let out, Margo would run up to her father’s car and say one of two things: “Today was a slam dunk, Daddy!” or, “Aaaiirr-ball.” This was Margo’s one method of expressing herself to an outside source.
With this, Margo’s relationship with her father, all of a sudden, seems to have direct effect on her motor skills. Early in the play, Jeff analyzes the sources of her disability. He says that too many things begin “racing around her internal racetrack” that she is unable to provide a coherent selection of thoughts. She begins to stammer, which in turn feeds her anxiety. He describes it as a cyclic process that has been going on for as long as he can remember.
Little does Jeff realize that he, in fact, is the main source of her anxiety. He does not make himself available to her as much as is needed, and more importantly, he does not open himself up to her. Margo’s frustration towards this is not addressed properly, and therefore she cannot rid those stressors from her mind. This leads to heightened mental traffic, which just happens to be Margo’s kryptonite.
It is not until after Margo breaks her relationship with her father that she could finally be at peace. And, alas, here is where paths collide, for Jeff plans to seek out Margo in an ill-conceived attempt to make amends. What Jeff does not realize however, is that he carries the weight of past misfortunes along with him. What will Jeff say? How will Margo react? The net result of this climactic interaction is nothing short of poetic.
Carapace is a profound work of theatre magic that moves us, and brings us to a whole other level of enlightened understanding. It challenges us to question our own motives, strategies and ideals in a way that might be inconceivable. It is a knockout of a drama that will leave you speechless, defenseless and downright inspired.