BY MATT ELLIS
Deb Olin Unferth
Guggenheim Fellow and three-time Pushcart Prize winner Deb Olin Unferth knows that humans are a mess. Somewhere between visions of the ideal world and taking action, even the best-intentioned among us has the capacity to blow it completely. That’s probably why the clear underdog in her ambitious satirical political drama Barn 8 is a chicken named Bwwaauk.
Like with all great hen heist epics, this one starts with a late-night bus ride from New York to Iowa. Fifteen-year-old Janey Flores flies her mother’s coop to meet a father she didn’t know existed and to punish them both for the paternal omission. “She was going to make this man know her, or at least pay for not knowing her.” Her temporary act of teenage angst becomes permanent when tragedy strikes, stranding her in the Midwest, mourning the life she should have had. “But the old Janey—the original, the best, the one who might have lived and gone on to greatness, or at least happiness, or at least somethingness, had she not made the one terrible error—was stronger than any of them. The rest of the Janeys were mere shadows fading in light.”