Friday, August 14, 2009

Fringe/Ether Steeds

It is better, thinks sixteen-year-old Skeeta (Sarah Lord), to get lost among the understandable bits of nature, like Venus flytraps, than to spend time at home with Mom (Birgit Huppuch) and the men she drags home with her. Better to use the family's knack for storytelling (an art older than religion, we're reminded) to "shape the darkness." She flitters through her narrative like the mosquito she's named for, the ghost of her Daddy (Todd D'Amour) and her present but resentful Mother echoing her desperate hope: "I'd like to believe."

Jason Williamson's Ether Steeds is easy to believe in, thanks to its fantastical language ("soul-tired," "wedding-cake moon," "cactus heart") and phenomenal cast, which also includes Sahr Ngaujah, as electric here as the mild-mannered, wounded love-interest, Emory, as he was as the lead in Fela! last year. Niegel Smith's direction maintains the pace, using the lyrical repetitions to build tension and drawing a nice contrast between Skeeta's reality and her storybook ancestor, Ida, who falls for a kelpie (a supernatural horse, hence the "ether steeds"). The dream-like quality of the show is well-tempered by the presence of actors like the sturdy D'Amour and phenomenally ranged Huppuch, though Lord still manages to steal the show with her character's so-deliberate-it's-accidental charm.

On a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being "drowning in metaphors" and 5 being "smooth sailing on a raft of beautiful ideas," Ether Steeds easily gets a 5.

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