Bayonne resident Crystal Nuchurch knows how to relate to the main character in the play “When All is Lost.” The story begins when a mother’s favorite teenage son is shot to death in a gang-like inner city shooting. Nuchurch plays the mother in a situation similar to real life events going on in Jersey City.
Nuchurch grew up in Jersey City. She attended PS 17 and St. Aloysius high school. Her mother was a teacher and her father was a postal worker.
Amid a spate of Jersey City shootings, particularly of men in their twenties and teens, she is well aware of the dangers young men face, and how it must feel to lose someone to senseless violence.
Playwright Drica Armstrong is from Elizabeth and also knows, since the play was inspired by the murder of her cousin who was gunned down and the family’s reaction to his death.
“This play speaks to the failure of places like Jersey City to curb gun violence,” Armstrong said.
A tragedy made worse
Nuchurch said the play is about how a family deals with the loss of a loved one, and how the family is brought together as a result of the tragedy.
“We’re trying to reach the parents of teenagers in Jersey City and have them come see the play,” Nuchurch said. “The idea is to get beyond the blame game.”
The chief lesson is that parents need to pay closer attention to what their children are doing.
In this play, the mother has two sons, one of whom is her favorite. Nuchurch said she could relate because she has two daughters, and though she does not intentionally favor one, she probably does, and so brings this experience to the play.
“My parents raised me at a time when we had to be in by the time the street lights came on,” Nuchurch said. “Kids have more freedom today, stay out to all times, and this gives them more opportunity for things to happen.”
Armstrong said the play is about teenagers who are dying from senseless violence, or from just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In the play, the kid is hanging out and suddenly something happens, a case of mistaken identity, just like real life.
Gang violence is often about retribution. People released from jail come back to the street looking to take revenge on someone. Often, as in the play, innocent people are killed.
“Kids today do not fair fight,” Nuchurch said. “They don’t stand up with their fists. They have guns. They come into a store and shoot.”
The play begins with the shooting, and the rest is about its aftermath.
“There is a lot of blaming,” Armstrong said. “But don’t look at others, look at yourselves. None of them want to take ownership.”
Nuchurch said she’s been developing the main character since first reading the script last December. The toughest part, she said, was coming to terms with how the character realizes what she didn’t do.
“She still loves her ex-husband, the father of her son, and has not gotten over the fact that her ex married someone else,” Nuchurch said.
The blame game
Armstrong said the play reenacts much of what she saw in her cousin’s family after his murder last summer.
“Everybody was blaming everybody else, but not looking at themselves,” she said. “Until people stop blaming each other, they can’t get down to the truth. Perhaps they should have stopped him from hanging out. Maybe there were things they could have done better.”
She said her cousin was a good person, but flawed in that he got caught up in a violent culture.
“The play deals in some of the old way, old habits, and the folly of having access to guns,” Armstrong said.
With the ever-increasing gun violence in Jersey City, Armstrong said she still wants to perform the play in town. Producers wanted the debut at Art House near Journal Square. But a broken water pipe flooded the office, gallery, and performance space, so the producers scrambled to find an alternative.
They eventually relocated for a one-night performance at the Roy Arias Stage II on 8th Avenue in Manhattan.
The New York City performance tests the audience reaction.
There are some lighter moments. “I believe in having some comic relief,” she said.
The show runs just under one hour, but can be expanded, depending on audience feedback.
“There is room for expanding character stories,” Armstrong said.
The show is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, at the Roy Arias Stage II, 777 8th Ave. Tickets are $25 and can be ordered on line at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/2497426.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.