In an unconventional dramatic monologue, Brian Watkins’s My Daughter Keeps Our Hammer is an intense, yet comedic view at two sisters faced with the decision to hold on to their past or move forward into their future.
Sarah (Katherine Folk-Sullivan) and Hannah (Layla Khoshnoudi) speak directly to the audience; their lines flow seamlessly as if singing a round, expressing why they feel an immense amount of disdain towards each other and the small prairie town of Colorado where they reside. Set designer Andrew Diaz and lighting designer John Eckert place the audience in the middle of their family’s prairie. The theater is completely dark. When the girls are ready to share sacred truths, the room goes black; Sarah and Hannah are only visible. Family secrets are told to a living diary that doesn’t judge, but listens intently, visualizing each narration.
After the death of their father, the siblings become estranged, taking on the responsibly of their mother — Sarah, the eldest, is the unofficial caretaker. Sarah doesn’t know what to do with herself; her loneliness so overwhelming she’s just looking for someone to talk to. Hannah, on the other hand, desperately wants everyone to shut up. She works at a coffee house and drives an old car that can’t go past 40 miles, dreaming about her dad’s F-150 truck in the garage. However, they both share the same motive: flee the prairie.
Then there’s Vicky, the only surviving sheep of their family’s flock, a gift from their father to their mother. Since their mom became sick, Vicky and the F-150 are the only things that hold sentimental value and make her happy. Her daughters don’t count. Because of this, she refuses to move the truck and Vicky has been moved inside the house — an unsuccessful attempt to house-train livestock.
Sarah admits under the spotlight that something came over her and she’d spit and hit Vicky in a moment of frustration. Feeling haunted, she makes a quilt for her mother, only to find she’s ungrateful and full of criticism. Yet, according to Hannah, her mom is so impressed by the gift; she wants to give Sarah the F-150 for Christmas, adding to their grudge and separation. Hiring a coffee house regular and his ram, Hannah has a full-proof plan to get Vicky pregnant. The perfect way to commandeer the F-150.
To avoid giving away an ending that completely blindsides the audience, the sister’s shift their hatred of each other to Vicky — it is the one thing they share. Sarah says she embodies her father for a split second. In one of her confessions, Hannah acknowledges killing a baby chick when she was little and it “made her think twice about killin,” but in the darkness of the theater, she admits Sarah is unrecognizable. They aren’t the girls they thought they were.
Full of allegory and symbolism, My Daughter Keeps Our Hammer is amazing. It’s dark, a little twisted, intense, but surprisingly witty. Under the direction of Danya Taymor, Watkins’s writing comes full-circle and enters reality; an existence that’s quite difficult to achieve in a monologue. Folk-Sullivan and Khoshnoudi are brilliant; who else could make murder seem like it’s the right thing to do? The fact that they aren’t really sisters is slightly disappointing but the play is definitely worth seeing.
My Daughter Keeps Our Hammer is playing at The Flea Theater (41 White Street) in Tribeca. Evening performances run until Feb. 15. Tickets are $15, $25 and $35. For tickets and showtimes, call 212-352-3101 or visit www.theflea.org.