Southbank’s ‘Shocks’: Trigger warning

“…To die – to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d…”
 – William Shakespeare, “Hamlet,” Act 3, Scene 1

By John Lyle Belden

Angela takes shelter in the basement. We, the audience, find that the fourth wall is behind us; we are trapped with her. The approaching tornado roars. Threatening an “overwhelm,” a noun coined by her fellow insurance specialists, this event is not entirely fictional or even hypothetical: It is statistical. This will happen to Angela, it may – one day – even come to us.

This is “Natural Shocks” by Lauren Gunderson, presented by Southbank Theatre at the Fonseca Theatre. Directed by New York-trained local actor Eric Bryant, Carrie Ann Schlatter delivers a fascinating performance, drawing us into her world of risks that can be quantified, but are more than cold numbers when calamity happens to you. She feels a kinship with Hamlet (inspiring the play’s title, see above), noting the “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy is not so much about suicide but just mulling over the options of the cost/benefit of staying alive, vs. not.

Angela tells us of the life that led her up to this moment, of choices made, love lost and found, and a stand she needed to take. Spoiler alert: She lies when she says her husband is a good man. Also, there is a gun. It will be used.

This intense nonstop hour-plus drama is engaging and important viewing, though possibly triggering for those who can relate to this woman’s plight. Her ordeal becomes, for a moment, ours to bear. Tornadoes are unpredictable and wildly destructive – the same with what happens here.

Remaining performances are Thursday through Sunday, Nov. 17-20, at 2508 W. Michigan Ave., Indianapolis. Get info and tickets at

IndyFringe: Trapped!

This is part of IndyFringe 2022, Aug. 18-Sept. 4 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at

By John Lyle Belden

A handsome, sharp-dressed successful man casually relates an old saying, “A jealous man can’t work; a scared man can’t gamble,” little realizing how that relates to his whole world coming apart.

In “Trapped!” by Greg Stalworth, Cincinnati-based performers Curtis Drake Shepard and Jacqueline Johnson-Wilkinson portray a couple, Richard and Michelle, who have it all, including a 15-year marriage. But the high-stakes stress of running his Fortune 500 company grows suspicion in Richard’s mind. Michelle, who he had regarded as the “battery” that powered his life, is now his “trophy,” a precious possession that others certainly covet, an object that he can control.

For her part, Michelle notices the changes, but tells herself he’ll change back. By the time the abuse becomes unbearable, she can barely manage an escape. Shame and her husband isolating her from her peers keep her from reaching out to them, and she falls among society’s disposable rejects.

This unrelenting drama may have triggers for those with similar trauma as depicted and described here. This is hard to watch, in a good way. Shepard bares his character’s ego, letting us see all the ugly a man can become, and the sorrow it finally brings him. Johnson-Wilkinson breaks our hearts, showing us the folly of both Michelle’s denial and our feelings of “why doesn’t she just…” The production aims to be a wake-up call to men and women who see themselves in their shoes, as well as awareness to those who might know them.

Could so much misfortune visit one woman? Shepard says Stalworth wrote this short play in response to a death in his own family. Domestic violence prevention advocates will tell you that part or all of what happens to Michelle has been and is happening to somebody, somewhere, today.

As Michelle says, “Don’t cry for me, cry out because of me.”

Also, just as importantly, can such a man be redeemed? Watch “Trapped!” – performances Aug. 20, 27 and 28, in the Athenaeum – and judge for yourself.