Barely two months ago, Sherrif’s deputy Scot Peterson was found not guilty of failing to protect students when a gunman opened fire on students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Though never mentioned, and written before the verdict was delivered, Scott Organ’s 17 Minutes picks up in the aftermath of a similar incident.
In this play it is another sheriff’s deputy, Andy Rubens (Larry Mitchell) who remains outside for seventeen minutes while 12 pupils are shot dead by a fellow student in an unnamed school.
Rubens is questioned by a detective (Brian Rojas) and while this intimately performed play feels like it will be a police procedural drama, it actually succeeds in using this as a device to explore the effect on the wider community.
The writing very cleverly gives quite a unique perspective on events. While in this country we are still shaken by the events in Dunblane, school shootings are far more common in America, yet Organ’s subtly nuanced script ensures that British audiences will still feel this for the raw powerful drama it is.
As we learn that Rubens in an unreliable narrator, the audience must wrestle with their own conscience. Is this a man deliberately lying, or someone so overwhelmed by what’s happening he simply can’t comprehend it, or his response to it.
Seth Barrish’s direction keeps the audience in suspense, it’s a relatively small performance space, so we immediately feel drawn in and remain gripped throughout. In one of the final scenes Rubens comes face to face with one of the victims mothers(Lee Brock) the emotional intensity from Brock is so powerful the audience were literally holding their breaths.
A considerately written play about a very difficult subject, 17 Minutes explores the deep facets of what it is to be human, to make decisions, and to be fallible.