Flooding frequently threatens Boo Killebrew’s The Play About My Dad at 59E59. Not the rising waters of Hurricane Katrina, though that disaster colors most of the action, but rather the rush of tears that well in the eyes of nearly every actor in this sweet if occasionally mawkish drama.
At first, the piece seems merely a tribute to the playwright’s dad and his work in a Greenwood, Mississippi, hospital during the hurricane. At the top of the show, the actor playing Larry Killebrew (Jay Potter) steps onto the stage and announces, with an endearing awkwardness, “I am going to tell my story about Katrina.” His daughter Boo (Anna Greenfield) joins him to offer acting notes. “Could you read from this?” she asks. “But you know, like it’s you, just talking?”
Eventually, even as Larry and the other characters—an elderly woman, a stranded family, two EMTs—begin to enact their experiences in the storm, a different narrative strain emerges. Though Larry and Boo (or at least their actor avatars) may seem tender toward each other, Larry abandoned his family when Boo was a teenager. Before Katrina descended, they hadn’t spoken in more than two years.
The play twines disaster tales with the tentative reconciliation of the playwright and her father, also weaving in a fairly unnecessary thread of magical realism involving time travel. Nevertheless, director Lee Sunday Evans keeps the action grounded, though she, like Killebrew, can’t resist an opportunity to tweak the heartstrings. Yet if the play does tend toward the lachrymose, a torrent that left more than 1,500 people dead likely deserves a few tears.