In the midst of the dizzying onslaught of shows opening on Broadway en masse to beat the Tony Awards eligibility deadline, which happens every April, one of the most culturally relevant, provocative and unapologetically unsettling dramas of the season has quietly opened at the Public Theater.
Perhaps “The Library” feels as if it dropped out of nowhere because it has been helmed by Hollywood talent, including film director Steven Soderbergh (“Erin Brockovich,” “Traffic”) and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns (“Side Effects,” “The Informant!”). The eight-member cast is led by 17-year-old Chloë Grace Moretz (“Carrie”).
The 90-minute drama is set in a small town immediately after a school shooting that resulted in multiple deaths. But rather than explore the events and societal conditions that led up to such a tragedy, “The Library” is concerned with how the shooting and its essential facts are misinterpreted and manipulated by family and friends, the media, the government and religious figures.
Sixteen-year-old Caitlin (Moretz), who is seriously wounded during the shooting, is accused by a fellow student of telling the shooter where many others were hiding in order to save her own life. When she denies the charge and accuses a girl who got killed of revealing their whereabouts, she is condemned by the local community.
Caitlin’s situation provokes questions not just as to whether she is telling the truth but also whether she should just accept her situation and move on.
When proof is found that confirms Caitlin’s version of the events, the deceased girl’s religiously zealous mother refuses to acknowledge it.
Moretz convincingly depicts Caitlin’s strength and resolve in spite of doubt and despair.
Jennifer Westfeldt and Michael O’Keefe are excellent as Caitlin’s frustrated and seemingly helpless parents.
“The Library” is the kind of play that ought to have a talkback session at the end of every performance. After sitting through it, you are eager to continue the discussion and engage with others. And that’s probably what its creators were going for.