Dark Play or Stories for Boys | [INSERT NAME HERE] Theatre Company

theat_dark-play.jpgNick knows the rules; Adam doesn’t. Bad things happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mrs. Spiegel (Leslie Sikes) is Nick’s (Sid Sidler) over-the-top high school drama teacher. She stresses that theater must be "DARK and DANGEROUSSSS [sic]"—she speaks in capital letters—but then all the class does is play kids’ games like tag, hide-and-seek and (to much student tittering) pussy- in-the-corner. A precocious 14, Nick challenges her, and, after some dramatic dithering, she finally says the central line in this piece: Dark Play is a kind of game where certain players know the rules and other players don’t.

Dark Play or Stories for Boys by Carlos Murillo is the second production of the fledgling [INSERT NAME HERE] Theatre Company. (That is its name, by the way.) Formed by Chris Owens and Liz Schuster, its mission is to "provide a company for younger actors to have an opportunity to perform in newer, challenging material," as well as attract audiences from a younger demographic than those who traditionally attend live theater. They have succeeded on both counts here. It is a challenging play, and the audience definitely skewed young.

The story is about a computer hoax that goes way too far. Nick finds Adam (David Coffer) on Facebook. Nick tracks him down in a chat room and gets to "know" him. He’s 16 years old, and to Nick, a "10" in gullibility (he may even go up to 11, as is noted). Adam is looking for "love," and that intrigues Nick because he doesn’t believe such a thing exists. He invents a persona, Rachel, and puts up a fake profile who fits all Nick’s criteria for the "perfect girl," and the game is afoot. Nick knows the rules; Adam doesn’t. Bad things happen.

This is all told in flashback by an older Nick who is trying to account to a girl he’s having sex with about some mysterious marks on his torso. The scene where she asks about them and he tries to decide whether to tell the story as it happened or make something up recurs throughout the show. Another case of repetition involves Sikes and the line, "When you do it, tell him you love him," spoken to Adam. In the end, Nick does tell the girl what happened as he perceives the truth, and she doesn’t believe him. It’s just too out there. People make their own realities, Nick included. Lesson learned.

Erin Roberts (who has the least to do) is the standout in the cast. She plays both genders and all ages believably. She is a freshman theater major, according to her bio, and she’s definitely one to watch. Coffer is appropriately naïve and spirals into a nightmare credibly. Brie Brewer has the dual roles of Molly and Rachel, and though she is capable in both, they are one-dimensional. In fact, Rachel doesn’t even exist, yet she comes to dominate the proceedings onstage.

Sikes is kind of a ringer here. She is an experienced professional actress, most recently seen in a major part in Stray Dog’s production of Pippin. She is good as Nick’s slutty Mom and a faux FBI agent (invented by Nick) who (virtually, of course) talks vulnerable Adam into doing something, well, dark and dangerous.

The weak link is Sidler. He settles down during the course of the play, and by the end, I believed him in his character, but it took too long for him to get there. He starts out reciting his lines really, really fast and without any variation (or enunciation), and that doesn’t bring us into his world effectively. However, he too is new to the stage and will get better.

Owens and assistant director Schuster keep the play moving along with a minimum of confusion, which could be a real problem in less capable hands. A little bit of stage violence is done especially effectively to fight choreography Shaun Sheley’s credit. The simple set, lighting and costumes are appropriate to the play.

When the show was over, a guy behind me said, "Well that was weird." And he’s right. But also timely, intriguing, horrifying and fun. [INSERT NAME HERE] Theatre Company is onto something, and even though this show has now ended, keep an eye out for the next production.

Visit online at http://www.myspace.com/inhthreatre to find out about what’s coming up and audition information. | Andrea Braun

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