Playreading: Babel Tower

Center Players schedules monthly play readings at the theater. For a mere $5 donation, you get to sit down and enjoy a full length play reading performed by fine actors in a theater setting. After the reading, there’s a brisk, stimulating discussion of the play that helps Center Players’ board determine whether or not the play would be a good addition to our schedule. Tonight, there’s a reading of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milkwood. We’d love to see you there!

A few weeks ago, guest blogger Grace Toy reviewed the last play reading, Babel Tower by Alexis Kozak. Below is her review. Thank you, Grace!


It is a classic American tale that one has to leave one’s community in order to find and/or retain one’s self. Our most recent play reading, Babel Tower by Alexis Kozak addressed this vital question of self versus community when it comes to identity.

The emotional showdown between William, the Mayor, and his father, the Professor, is one of the most heartbreaking scenes of the reading. When William tells him that he is leaving town with Hattie after a lifetime of being witness and victim of the Mayor’s power struggles with the town for the tower to be built (including his own mother), one cannot help but be moved when his own father denounces and ultimately disowns William for not living up to his expectations.

Sometimes, of course, we should leave our physical homes to find and assert our own identity, but I was troubled that there seemed to be such a radical choice — does one have to lose all that one has known and loved — no matter how troubled — in order for to be fulfilled? Does one have to literally kill himself Jack in order to leave Black Kettle, a place of limited possibilities and ever-presence of oil rigs and stench of cow manure, to find one’s dreams and still have community?

The fault seems not to be in that Jack, Hattie, William and the Professor dare to dream for themselves; it is that they don’t dream big enough. Their vision seems to be obscured by their being in spiritual and psychological bondage to not being able to see and “own” what Black Kettle and their loved ones mean to them. In their myopia, the audience is left by the end with the sad, matter-of-fact Narrator’s emotionless telling of what happened in Black Kettle.

I hope to see that in future work, Alexis Kozak would be able to re-envision both self and community, where they can be integrated with each other, for that is where true redemption lies. In the end, we know that you can take the person out of Black Kettle, but you can’t take Black Kettle out of the person.

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