Hunter Gardner is a writer and comedic performer in Charleston, SC. Also, he's nice.
Assholes. We all know at least one.
Sure, we’ve all acted like an asshole at some point...but some people are assholes. It’s a personality trait.
But what happens when that asshole is your own brother who ran the family farm? And now he’s dead. And what if the death of this asshole (whose asshole-ness has affected your entire life) now holds serious implications for your future?
OUR BROTHER HANK IS DEAD is a one-act dramedy about coming to terms with your past, admitting your faults in the present, and surviving your family.
The reunited siblings are Lawrence (the politician turned real estate entrepreneur), Ruth (a woman of the Lord), and Marie (the free-spirited baby sister).
Lights go up and down on three locations around The Ford Family Farm, following the Ford siblings, Momma Ford, and Hank’s 18-year-old son Junior, who each have different ideas about Hank’s death and the future of the farm.
The one-act play is framed by candid moments with Momma Ford, who paints and speaks out loud to herself as she fights her failing memory.
Lawrence, now the eldest brother, offers himself to be the new farm manager. But his political past and real estate license raise concerns, especially from the baby little sister, Marie.
Working together on the farm, Lawrence and Junior foster an atypical but vulnerable kinship. Still, the farm business is a handshake business, and customers can smell the city on Lawrence.
As it turns out the farm is hanging together by a showstring. However, it’s greatest asset is its land value. When Lawrence shows Ruth the numbers even she says, “Jesus Christ.”
Despite their differences, the siblings start opening up to one another. Meanwhile, Momma Ford's mental health is only getting worse.
The siblings are also spending more time with Junior, too, one-on-one. They share stories about Hank, and we see that he was in fact a complicated character.
Junior is the strong silent type. He rarely speaks if at all. In a solemn moment alone, we see him enter with a vinyl record. He takes it out and cradles it like a Teddy Bear.
At the end of his rope physically and financially, Lawrence makes a call to his real estate partner about a big deal he could have on his hands.
Soon after, in the kitchen, we learn that Ruth is haunted by the farm. She witnessed her father’s death, trapped under a piece of farm equipment, and wasn’t able to save him.
Marie--once upset because this was supposed to be her vacation--is now the most loyal to the farm. She reflects on this in a conversation with Junior, who simply turns to her and says, “I miss my dad.”
Back in the kitchen, Lawrence and Ruth tell Marie that they are going to sell the farm so everyone can get on with their lives. She asks, “But what would our brother Hank think?”
In an attempt to change their minds, Marie brings in the vinyl record--a record that Hank’s band recorded. All the songs about wanting to be away...but Hank stayed for the farm, the sacrificial lamb.
This is sentimental, but doesn’t seem to be working, until we hear a booming voice call out...
It’s Hank. He’s back. And dead. And an asshole. In a long diatribe, Hank explains to his siblings that we’re all assholes...we just have to decide how to deal with our own asshole-ness.
In the final scene, Junior enters Momma Ford’s room. Her painting is done. He holds it a la the vinyl record. Hank is dead, but they will always have this image to remember him by.