A Crooked Man
by Richard Kalinoski
Hagop Hagopian, 89
Alex (Alexan), his grandson, 26
To be played by one actor:
Anahid (Anna), his middle-aged daughter
Turkish woman (gaunt)
Woman who kisses ring
To be played by one actor:
Mehmet Pasha, a Turkish governor
Man who kisses ring
To be played by one actor:
Dr. Schmidt, a gentleman scholar
Young Hagop Hagopian
When 89-year-old Hagop Hagopian sends a mysterious letter to his callow and eager grandson Alex, the aspiring journalist seizes the opportunity of interviewing the recent widower. The young man hopes to win a writer’s fellowship for what he thinks will be a riveting account of Hagop’s youthful exploits – most notably the assassination of a Turkish official instrumental in the Armenian genocide. What Alex gets instead is a trip to the roof, inheritance of an awful secret and a jolt of self-discovery.
--reading at The Players Theatre, N.Y.
--Spanish language premiere, Teatro del Nudo, Buenos Aires, Argentina, March
--Public Reading and Professional Premiere (full Equity cast) February, Alianak Theatre Productions, Toronto, Canada*
--UW Oshkosh full production with guest director and guest Equity actor (February)
--Professional Reading, New Repertory Theatre, Newton, Mass. (January)
--Professional Reading, Alianak Theatre Productions, Toronto, Canada (January)
--Non-professional reading, Dayton Playhouse FutureFest, Dayton, Ohio (July)
--Salt Lake Acting Company, Salt Lake City, Utah (December)
*indicates Equity and/ or professional casts
Chosen for TRU (Theatre Resources Unlimited) reading in N.Y., June 2008
Paul Award – $10,000, Best Play in the U.S. Addressing the Lives of Armenians, Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance, Los Angeles, CA. 2007
Playwrights First Award – National Arts Club, New York—to culminate in public reading September 26, 2007 of A Crooked Man at National Arts Club
Wisconsin Arts Board Fellowship (based on A Crooked Man), 2007
From Reviews of A Crooked Man
About the 2008 Teatro del Nudo production (Un Hombre Torcido):
“A worthwhile effort because it encourages more to see the whole picture, "to strive to reflect more, to recover the memory.” translated from The Wreck, a radio program in Buenos Aires
“…very touching and, at times, amusing, because the relationship is endearing, even if it is crossed by dark planes.” translated from Pagina, Buenos Aires
From Mondo Magazine, published online on Feb. 26, 2008, Toronto, Canada, by Kerry Freek
From the bitterly cold streets of Queen and Dovercourt on a Friday night, I enter the Theatre Centre to see the world premiere of Richard Kalinoski’s second play on the theme of the Armenian genocide. What do I know about this part of history? Two prior points of reference: 1) seeing Defixiones: Will and Testament performed by the incredible Diamanda Galás in a Zionist church in Kitchener, Ontario in 2005, and 2) having recently read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Both mind-blowing and beautifully-written, but they couldn’t have prepared me for this. (How can one be prepared to deal with human suffering x 1.5 million?)
Hagop Hagopian (Hrant Alianak) is the crooked man. An 88-year old Armenian legend, now living in the United States, he is haunted by his experiences with the genocide, which include seeing his family murdered as a boy. But he’s an infamous hero among his people – as a young man in Germany, Hagop murdered (an action he justifies as “assassination” or “execution”) the Turkish politician responsible for heading up the massacres in his village.
Present day: Hagop’s wife has recently passed away and, without her, his life-long nightmares (daymares?) are becoming worse. With the intention of writing a feature about his famous grandfather, Alexan (Garen Boyajian), a naïve young reporter, visits Hagop, who, despite having invited Alexan, is reluctant to dig too deep into his story. But as he does open up, we fall deeper into his anguish. Alexan’s questions begin to unlock Hagop’s life. Araxi Arslanian, Carlo Essagian and Michael Kazarian play several roles from his past, effectively switching from character to character with slight changes in appearance (a scarf here, a hat there).
As a room, a cavern, we’re walking the line that separates criminal from hero, murderer from executioner. It’s heavy, but even Alianak’s curmudgeonly, troubled old grandpa breaks the mounting tension with his gruff remarks, surprising the audience and even his grandson — who grew up watching people line up to kiss Hagop’s ring — with his sense of humour.
Finally, teetering on a rooftop (and we on the edges of our seats), Hagop reveals his most terrible secret, a secret beyond the horror to which he’s played witness.
Sobs come from all corners of the room. They come from deep in my chest, too, and the Armenian woman (a stranger) sitting beside me puts her hand on my hand. In Toronto, in Parkdale. Her hand on my hand. This play is not touching. She’s touching my hand, but “touching,” the descriptor, is for something like Steel Magnolias, or that sequel where Steve Martin’s wife and daughter are pregnant at the same time. My heartstrings aren’t being gently tugged, thank you; this is more like a violent shaking. We’re a temporary gathering, and we’re being reminded (we’re remembering) that human beings have the capacity to commit unforgivable atrocities in the names of hate and greed, but also that our love is so much more powerful than we can ever hope to understand.