Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Underground Zero: Father of Lies

Jose Zayas tends to be a very literal director, and the best stuff of his I've seen has been with explosively direct playwrights--Thomas Bradshaw and Taylor Mac--who give him energetic, meaty texts to wrestle with. I haven't read Father of Lies, Brian Evenson's 1998 novel, from which Zayas has adapted this production, but what he's chosen to stage doesn't play to his strengths. There's no ambiguity about whether Provost Fochs is a child molester and murderer--especially as played by the uncomfortably skinned Evan Enderle--and even less regarding his motivations: he's spurred on by The Man (a hammy, but not unpleasantly so, Richard Toth), a religious icon who wears a red shirt and isn't Jesus Christ.

According to synopses of Father of Lies, the novel is written from three perspectives--including a psychoanalyst, Dr. Feshtig (Matt Huffman), who is muted here--and focuses on the hypocritical "trial" of Fochs, who is defended blindly by his church leader, Rector Bates (a steady Pete McCabe), against accusations of molestation. These elements are part of Zayas's show, but dismissively so, and consequently, the only thing that ends up being ambiguous is who the excellent Jocelyn Kuritsky and Jessica Pohly (who play a variety of wives, mothers, and girls) are at any given point in time within the non-linear, dreamy narrative.

When Zayas focuses on Fochs's madness--playing with the theater's audio levels (unbearably, at times, but understandably so), dimming the lights, swapping characters--he produces an admirably creepy environment. But he has not yet grounded these effects in anything real, so a car-crash is dismissed, a bloody sex scene is swiftly forgotten, and nothing is learned, which makes the devil not just the father of lies, but a bad parent.

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