|L-R: Paul Rattray and Lisa Diveney in TREMOR. Photo by Mark Douet.|
Tremor by Brad Birch, a beautifully written, thought-provoking, and expertly performed two-hander, is one of the best plays currently being staged as part of this year’s Brits Off Broadway program at 59E59 Theaters. In exploring its primary theme of survivor guilt, it deals with issues as diverse as our tendency to deny our true feelings and rationalize our real motivations; our desire to discover (or create) meanings and teleological explanations for events where none may exist; our search for guilty parties beyond the obvious (and, similarly, for victims who might not immediately come to mind); and our unconscious racist or ethnic biases (or, conversely our need to be so politically correct that we refuse to recognize realities in our dangerous world).
Sophie (Lisa Diveney) and Tom (Paul Rattray) were among a handful of survivors of a bus crash four years ago. But while they were fortunate to survive the event physically, they weren’t so lucky psychologically or emotionally. The trauma destroyed their relationship. Tom went through a period of excessive drinking and his role in testifying against the bus driver (which resulted in the Muslim driver’s incarceration and made Tom a hero to some and a villain to others ) ultimately cost him his job. Eventually,Tom did manage to move on: he married, fathered a child, started his own business, and convinced himself that he personally had done nothing wrong.
Sophie didn’t do that well: she remained racked with survivor guilt and failed to comprehend why she was alive when so many others, including children, died. She continued searching for someone other than the bus driver himself (who may or may not have been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident) to blame for the crash – the police? the government? the bus company? the economic system? – and she continued to fault Tom for what she perceived as his racist attitude toward the bus driver.
When, four years after the accident, Sophie asks Tom to forgive the bus driver (who is on his death bed) the enormity of the difference in their world views becomes obvious to both of them. But some differences are so great as to be irreconcilable and all we can do is move on.