An unsettling violent edge is ever-present in “Evie’s Waltz,” Carter W. Lewis’ suspenseful if unsatisfying profile of teenage terror, staged by New Jersey Repertory Company. The unseen youth in this chilling short drama could easily be one of the kids behind the Columbine massacre or any number of other ripped-from-the-headlines incidents.
Defiant, precocious and mean-spirited, 16-year-old title character Evie is played with an unnerving and obnoxious edge by Kate Kenney. She bounds onto the patio of her boyfriend’s squabbling parents (Warren Kelley and Andrea Gallo) wearing army fatigues, with tattoos prominently displayed on her bare shoulders, and greets the adults with a rude swagger. Evie is the playwright’s mouthpiece and, despite some excessive mugging, Kenney gives the drama its central focus and boundless energy.
Evie casually informs the couple that her troubled boyfriend has not only been suspended from high school but is, in fact, armed in the woods behind their home with a rifle and has made detailed diagrams of the school classrooms, corridors and exits.
Apparently the boy has been bullied at school and taunted by his neighbor’s alcoholic mother. Evie explains how the youth purchased the rifle on the Internet with his mother’s stolen credit card. A cross-haired spotlight representing the sniper’s rifle scope eerily follows the characters across the patio.
The boy’s dad is preoccupied with the veggie skewers on the grill, and the sniper’s parents engage in a great deal of unrelated blather that skirts the crisis at hand. They apparently have no clue as to the reason behind their son’s irrational behavior, and the play limps to its conclusion with some gunshots but too little resolve.
Designer Jessica Parks supplies a modest depiction of the rear patio of a suburban home. Director SuzAnne Barabas places the young sharpshooter behind the audience to provide an uncomfortably queasy feeling; pot shots from a high-powered rifle target ceramic plates hanging on the kitchen wall with a frightening accuracy that has patrons jumping in their seats.