What's it about?
Naomi’s life (and apartment) are turned upside down when her sisters find out that empty boxes, broken plastic, and dead plants aren’t the only thing Naomi hoards.
What'd I experience?
Keep was like an anniversary episode of Hoarders on crack. Which is kinda funny to compare since the author of the Keep made it pretty clear in the playbill that Hoarders held no connection to play’s events. Keep was born out of her personal experience with mental illness and how it lead to her experience with hoarding. I think because it was coming from such a personal place, for a lot of the play I felt like I was invading someone's privacy, seeing something I shouldn't be. Like watching from a one way mirror into someone's life.
There are 3 (technically 4) sisters, the youngest being Naomi - the hoarder- who fell deep into depression after one of her older sisters was suddenly out of the picture. It’s clear that her two remaining sisters are no strangers to Naomi’s strange habit when they pay her an unexpected visit, with the hope of helping her clean up. Kara is the oldest sister, making her the one who actually raised the girls because of their drunken mother. Then there is Jane. I really liked Jane’s characters because she identifies as a lesbian, but she didn't feel like a stereotype of the label. To me, she seemed quite the opposite of what I typically associate with being a lesbian. She was girly, blonde, and all round feminine in every way possible. There also wasn’t any explanation that movies or books usually try to include when a gay character is introduced. It's annoying how people try to give an extensive origin story to how someone figured out they were gay. Instead, Jane just was. Period.
As Naomi reluctantly lets Kara and Jane come into her junkyar- I mean apartment, it’s pretty clear that Kara is the no bullshit sister. As soon as she gets a look (and a wiff) of the room she is out the door. But she loves Naomi, so she quickly enters after a couple minutes. She was such a smartass, wiseass, and just ass in general but it was easy to tell that it was all in hopes of making Naomi get the help she needed. A lot of the scenes were the girls attempting to throw away all of Naomi’s useless crap. That’s really what Naomi had, piles and piles of crap, at least that is what it was to me and apparently to Kara and Jane.
It was really weird to watch Naomi fight them so hard on throwing away pieces of broken plastic and empty boxes. It was so frustrating to see her desperately try to save something that appeared to be useless. It seemed Kara felt the exact same way when she asks Naomi why she wants to live among all the junk (that seemed to consume her apartment as much as it did her entire life). They hold memories and serve as souvenirs. It was such a simple answer that it kind of left me wondering if people like myself, who don’t really save things or at least treasures them to that extent, are somehow doing something wrong by viewing objects as something disposable. It’s a weird feeling to have because I’m also comparing it to the other extreme which is saving everything. Is there a perfect balance? Or do things have to inevitably just be let go? I mean not only do I still have no clue what I think, but it was also such a deep question that Keep posed at the middle of the freakin’ show. Damn.
As the girls continue to clean, things get more sinister. For a split second I wondered if this was some kind of mash-up of Hoarders and Ghost Hunters, because for a whole 5 minutes the characters find themselves in pitch black darkness - turns out someone just didn’t pay the bill. I’d thought that was disturbing enough, but no. Postcards are.
Up until this point there isn’t much known about Margo, the missing sister, if anything whenever she was mentioned it was past tense and generally associated with negative things. I imagined her as a disturbed girl with anger problems who hated the world - so basically a teenage girl just slightly more of a sociopath due to the mommy issues. She was manipulative, especially with Naomi. She took advantage of Naomi's naive nature, isolating Naomi and making her the only person Naomi could talk to, both literally and figuratively.
So it’s weird when Kara finds a postcard with Margo’s name and a date a couple of days after her disappearance. She then forces Naomi to hand over the rest of the postcards and as she reads them the dates gets closer and closer just like Naomi falls deeper and deeper into her depression.
At this point it felt like the elaborate set filled with boxes and bags of junk was more of a metaphor for the wall Naomi had built for herself. As if she was protecting herself for the inevitable day shit would hit the fan. That’s really how most of the world probably sees hoarding, a shield people use to protect themselves from the outside world. It’s not rare thing for someone feel like life has wronged them and somehow they are safer when they stop trying to deal with life. But that’s impossible, you’d have to die to cease living.
There are so many questions I still have about value and why certain people feel inclined to save things and let those things dictate who they are, but I don’t think Keep was meant to answer them for me but simply ask me them. It really opened me to question the things I hold and use everyday and wonder how someone like Naomi would see them.