Though she lives in the rural Pacific Northwest, Angie Carmichael lives a busy life, working as a waitress, going to college, and caring for her mercurial Vietnam War veteran father, Jonathan Carmichael. In despair as the Iraq War spirals out of control in 2005, Jonathan shoots himself. Though he survives, he is in grave condition and not expected to live.
Responding to the emergency, Angie’s brothers, Rich and Michael, rush home:
- Rich, a two-tour Iraq War veteran, works as a Marine recruiter. Drinking to blunt his combat memories and buckling under the pressure to recruit for an increasingly unpopular war, he is considering returning to Iraq for another tour.
- Michael also suffers the pressures and doubts of his job: a Marine casualty assistance officer (who informs families they have lost a family member). Living in an inescapable world of grief takes its emotional toll on him, yet he does not feel he can step down when his fellow Marines need him.
Angie faces her own immediate problem: if her father dies, his disability payments end, and she will no longer be able to pay the mortgage on the family home. Not only does she face losing her home and the emotionally wrenching loss of the place she and her brothers grew up, selling the property is complicated by their father’s “hobby” of growing marijuana; ostensibly for medical purposes, for himself and friends, Jonathan’s therapeutic gardening has left the family with a house full of felonies.
An odd little trick of the play: sometimes, when one of the siblings relives a memory, another one of the players will suddenly become the father. But each interpretation of the father slightly differs, per the character’s memory. A little Rashomon to go with your MREs. In a way, the father becomes a fourth character, as seen in the following excerpt.
From Next of Kin (contains adult language)
Full-length, two-act drama. One woman, two men.
- February 2006, Portland Theatre Works; concert reading.
- July 2010, Portland Theatre Works; a workshop and staged reading. Winner of a RACC grant.
- January 2012, Portland Theatre Works; concert reading for Portland’s Fertile Ground Festival.
About writing: Next of Kin
At the height of the Iraq War, when the bodies of American soldiers shipped home by the planeload, the Denver Sun ran a Pulitzer Prize-winning series on Marine Corp casualty assistance officers, the selfless men and women who knock on a family’s door with dread news. Hell of a story, I thought, mentally filing it. Not long afterward, I read a piece about the unbelievable pressed placed on Marine recruiters (for some reason, it’s tough to find recruits during a shooting war). Filed that one away too.
At some point, I must have thought it’d be intriguing to bring both professions together. That might generate some light. And heat. Then the unconscious did its work, and one day I asked myself: what if they were brothers?
And the writing began.