Saturday, September 20, 2008

No Darkness Round My Stone--Blog Exclusive Review

Here is the first of what will hopefully be many reviews exclusive to this blog, this time of No Darkness Round My Stone at Trap Door Theatre in Bucktown.

When a play begins with a live man copulating with a corpse, only to be interrupted by the dead denizens of the cemetery, you have a pretty good idea of what kind of show you're in for. For those who enjoy the idea of a play featuring dead people acting out scenes from their lives, full of pungent language and bizarrely compelling images but short on linear plot development, this proves a satisfying and at times spectacular show. Those with no taste for the avant-garde probably won't change their minds based on the ghoulish goings-on.

The play, by French author Fabrice Melquiot, is having its US premiere at Trap Door, in David Bradby's lyrical translation. As far as can be determined, it centers on brother grave-robbers Ivan (Kevin Lucero Less) and Dan (David Steiger), their father Louis, who also dresses up as a woman named Lullaby (Bob Wilson), and the two women the brothers love (Cassandra Kaluza and Tiffany Joy Ross), all of whom are apparently dead, and their interactions with apparently living (and occasionally corpse-raping) poet Juste (Casey Chapman). (Full disclosure: Chapman is a friend.)

The ninety minutes of the play show the characters varied interactions and several versions of their past. There is no linear through-line that I could discern, and the play has not avoided the common trap for plays of its type. While there are a number of exciting scenes and arresting images, the play eventually gets repetitious, and feels about 15 minutes too long.

But there are many pleasures along the way. Director Max Truax, fresh from the dire Termen Vox Machina, has a much better script on which to work his magic, and the results are striking. The play has a physical language that is fascinating to watch--characters move almost like real people, only to suddenly crumple to the ground, corpses again. It's an image that's startling every time. The design team clearly shares Truax's vision, and Ewelina Dobiesz' filthy, rotting set, Richard Norwood's grotesque lighting, and Zsofia Otvos' deathly makeup are particularly vital in creating a world so believable you can practically smell it. The actors all give fully committed performances, finding the beauty, humor, and horror in Melquiot's writing.

I'm still not sure what the show was trying to say, if anything at all, and I wish the entire play had lived up to its best moments, but the combination of script and production still makes for an arresting show, and those with a love of the bizarre should definitely attend.

1 comment:

Mr. K said...

A play about the undead! Sounds right up my alley...

David Steiger was in one of my improv classes at iO. I might need to check this out.