Monday, August 24, 2009


Is there too much information in Eminene, or not enough? The first half of Barton Bishop's post-apocalyptic play works like a low-budget version of The Road, only without the nuance and persistence of McCarthy's text. An excitable slingshot-armed Girl (Britney Burgess) teams up with a hardened, gun-toting Man (Michael Sharon), who, though abrasive at first, soon reveals himself to have a savior complex. For the first act, they wander through a mostly barren stage, recapping their horrific moral choices in the too-dark darkness. (To director Matthew J. Nichols and lighting designer Andrew Lu, I know that you're going for contrast, but it'd be nice to see our heroes.)

All of these unclear moments are soon set aside in the game-changing second act, a bright and cheery suburban house--complete with family portraits--in which we suddenly recognize that the Girl has grown up and that she's married to Tom (Christopher T. VanDijk). Now Bishop bombards us with details: it's been fourteen years, and they're holed up in the walled U.P., which would have killed an "outworlder" like Claire if Tom hadn't fallen in love with her unconscious body at first sight. They've got a daughter, Casey (Morgin Felicia), and Claire has a best friend, the vivacious Gina (Ellie Dvorkin), and Eminene is suddenly a different sort of morality tale (in the same way that 28 Days Later transitions away from simply being a zombie flick): now it's a blatant parallel for class boundaries, immigration, and the underlying question of whether a nation has a responsibility to its peers, or if it should simply and safely serve its own needs.

Both acts take too long to get where they're going, but when they hit, they hit hard. Act I ends with the Girl and the Man floating out across what they hope is a gulf and not an ocean, hoping to leave the mutants behind. As time passes, the Girl's game--in which she pretends to see land, and the Man "naively" plays along--becomes hopeless and sad. At the climax of Act II, Claire is forced to reconsider her life of privilege, haunted as she is by her unconscious knowledge that Tom must have chosen not to save the Man as well. In both cases, it's Burgess's acting that sells it, particularly in her shift from her younger habits and inflections (she frequently adds "Yeah?" to her sentences) to her more-hardened yet somehow softer elder self.

For all that, Eminene leaves us wanting more, and that's a good thing. On a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being "The end of the world" and 5 being "A whole new ball game," Eminene gets a 3.

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