By Joe Pisani
STRATFORD — How often have you heard the sad lament of a discouraged parent: “Where did I go wrong?” Especially when kids don’t turn out the way you wanted them to. But what about a father who utters, “Where did I go wrong?” because his son wants to be baptized a Catholic, who prays the rosary and who opposes abortion.
Catholic author James Carmody of St. Mark Church in Stratford, wrote a short play that centers on a discussion between a father and a son from a fractured family. The angry middle-aged man and his college-aged son see the world differently — and find themselves poring over the tragedies in their family and debating the Catholic faith, abortion, and the power of prayer. Somewhere in that intense and agonizing conversation, God’s grace intervenes … and things will never be the same.
Carmody’s play, “Falling Apart to Come Together, was among six that were selected for the 2023 Catholic Playwrights Festival at Theatre 71 at Blessed Sacrament Church, just off Broadway in Manhattan.
Carmody wrote the play and acted in it. The character of the son was played by his son, Andrew, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
“The play is about a man who is very anti-Catholic, and we don’t really know why,” Carmody said. “And when the play starts he is sitting with his son, who tells him he has to debate about abortion at his Catholic college.”
The father informs the boy, “This is a pro-choice family.” But after a few minutes, you realize the play involves much more than a debate about Catholic morality. There’s a lot of repressed pain and anger.
His wife, who was Catholic, died and gave her son a rosary, which he uses to pray for his father, who is an angry and wounded man. His other son left home for New Mexico because his girlfriend got pregnant, and the father insisted she have an abortion.
Eventually, the son gets to the point and tells his father he’s going to be baptized at the Catholic college he attends and wants him to be there. And slowly but certainly God’s grace is at work through the young man.
“The question is can the father accept the grace that is being offered,” Carmody said. “Can he see it and recognize it as a way out of his anger and pain and have a reunification with his son, who giving him an opportunity to cooperate with God’s grace. God is working through the son.”`
The emotional intensity of the play escalates. At the end, the father and son embrace as the man says, “I don’t get it … where did I go wrong? I didn’t see any of this coming. I was blind to all of this. When did you begin to think about all of this?”
The son responded: “When Mom gave me this, shortly before she died.” And he shows him the rosary. “I have been saying this rosary every day since Mom gave it to me.”
“I never wanted my life to be like this,” the father says. “How did our family fall apart like this?”
The son tells him, “There was never anything to hold it together … until now.”
Carmody, who taught English and theater at New York’s Information Technology High School, had a previous play titled, “Where’s Mommy,” performed at the Harold Clurman Theatre. He is currently working on two plays, one about Ukraine and the other about homelessness.
Carmody also spent more than a decade researching and writing a historical novel about Lt. Joseph Petrosino titled, “The Giant Killer,” based on the life and exploits of the most renowned Italian-American law officer in the city’s history, who was known as the “Italian Sherlock Holmes.”
The book, which was published by Pocol Press and is available on Amazon, begins on January 5, 1905 when one of the worst blizzards in history paralyzed the city. A bomb set off in a barber shop leaves one man dead, and in the weeks that follow, there is a series of bombings as Petrosino pursues his investigation.
Theatre 71, which sponsored the series of short Catholic plays, is connected to Blessed Sacrament Church on 152 West 71st Street.
“Theater 71 at Blessed Sacrament presents professional theatrical and musical performances, which support our parish community both financially and spiritually by uplifting spirits of those who attend,” said Susan Campochiaro Confrey, the artistic director. “We regularly have different performances, music, dance and films that are appropriate for a Catholic audience — with events for children as well as adults.”
For more information, visit (https://www.theatre71.org)