Friday, March 16, 2007

PLAY: "The Director"

The dark and subterranean space of Downstairs @ The Flea does wonders for Barbara Cassidy's new show, The Director. It's a perfect match for the multimedia work that lights up the black recesses of the cavernous hall, and the length of the room gives depth to the many different characters (well represented by The Flea's resident performers, The Bats) who echo through the chamber. This show isn't disturbing because of the lecherous (and pedophiliac) director it is named for (who we never meet); rather, it is effective because of the innocent reactions many of the actors have when discussing him. At times, the cast manages to put a gentle face on this man (a challenging task), and thankfully The Director's director, Jessica Davis-Irons clashes with their words by using contradictory video that shows the sinister and the cynical for what they are.

It's a good thing that The Director is an hour-long one-act, though. The first ten minutes make some sloppy mistakes that leave us impatient. A man sits in a corner and watches TV as the audience files in--oh, how blandly futurist--then the show plays a five-minute long taped monologue set in the flickering darkness--how abstractly avant-garde--before finally getting to the meat of the work. Luckily, after these initial set pieces, the show develops as an actual drama, introducing us to characters like Sadie (the excellent Lauren Shannon), and Milton (a wonderfully human Catherine Gowl). If anything, once we establish the strained friendship between these two, we almost hate to see the show end so soon.

But the director and writer have a mission, and they don't waste time about it. It isn't long before we meet Sadie's abusive ex-boyfriend, Snake (Donal Brophy, a Clive Owens double), and not long after that we skip through dream sequences filled with creepy androgynous modeling puppets. The show takes on symbolism so fluidly with the grounding scene-work and the bolstering monologues that the sudden stop to this ride catches you by surprise. The Director is full of surprises, the biggest one of which is its capacity to actually turn a tired story into a brilliant, new theatrical work.

[First posted to New Theater Corps, 3/16]

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