Pin It
Johannah Maynard new play asks us to experience the hyperawareness to sound that a librarian might have, attuned to its absence and also to the potential drama when the silence is broken.

Flee This Place 

click to enlarge 10.14-OTB.18.gif

Flee This Place

The Distillery
@ Meymandi Theatre at the Murphey School
Through Oct. 18

Johannah Maynard seems to have spent her fair share of time around libraries. Her new play, Flee This Place, asks us to experience the hyperawareness to sound that a librarian might have, attuned to its absence and also to the potential drama when the silence is broken. Maynard also knows the old desire that almost every reader has known: to intervene: To rescue a character we care about before he or she commits an act that never can be undone.

As playwright and director, Maynard exercises both interests in this first production by The Distillery, a new company she formed with Sylvia Mallory, in a show that runs through this Sunday at Burning Coal's Meymandi Theatre.

In Flee This Place, the principal characters in the Greek tragedies Medea and Antigone testify and interrogate one another in a ceremonial space, before an enigmatic man, the Chorus, interviews each in an attempt to intervene. This inaugural production emphasizes not only the physicality of its actors but also the psychological theater, up close, communicated through striking visuals in stage composition, Deb Bigsby's notable costumes and Rebecca Buck's unorthodox set design.

Instead of Meymandi's usual seating banks, the audience finds chairs surrounding a tableau set in sand at the center of the room. A series of brick and cinderblock cairns are evenly spaced around this circle, while characters sit or crouch along an arc of steps leading up to a circular plinth set at the center.

The intake of breath that cues the start of this ritual of possible redress is but the first in a series of wordless, almost soundless cries, whispers and exultations that are communicated, along with the very physical labor of grief, through a vivid, expanded human soundscape. Maynard's script gives a septet of characters solo space to speak their lack of peace in monologues marked by an enviable poetic economy, establishing their individual hells before interactions with other characters reinforce them.

Strong acting sells the world created here. We've never believed Fred Corlett more on stage than in his work here as Creon. When the name of Jason, Medea's betrayer, still tastes sweet on her lips, that fact makes Benji Taylor Jones' character writhe all the more between conflicting primary emotions. Jack Benton gives Jason the sangfroid of a psychopathic narcissist as he explores an unseemly sexuality with the affecting Allison Powell as a disturbingly young Glauce. Meanwhile, Angela Santucci's Antigone jams her hands against her ears as Hilary Edwards' Ismene recalls the happiness of their childhood.

In their midst, Andy Hayworth's understated Chorus first listens and then gently interrogates each of the principals. A work that probably goes too emo too early gets needed comic relief when he breaks up the Sturm und Drang once by yelling, "Didn't any of you ever have a GOOD day?" In the scene that follows, his character literally orchestrates a moment of respite, where all of the principals are without pain.

If Maynard risks much by transposing grief upon grief, she also takes her chances by interposing recordings by X, Paul Simon and Elliott Smith among the tortured revelations here. Though the choreography imposed on the song "Homeless" seems contrived, this play's true center is a number that employs Antony and the Johnsons' "Fistful of Love" (in the second area show to do so recently).

It's easy to say that Maynard's ending indulges in pop psychology. But by then, the ritual in Flee This Place has shown at least one character an exit from a dilemma of long standing, in an evening of experimental, sometimes harrowing but rewarding theater.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in On the Boards

  • Choreo Collective's Current Collection

    The limited and decidedly legato movement dynamics we saw too frequently in most of the seven works suggested deflated kinespheres whose slow leaks, over time, remain in need of repair.
    • Mar 31, 2010
  • American Dance Festival's 2010 lineup

    They're back to a full schedule of 13 presentations. Once again, the season tilts heavily in favor of companies and artists seen before.
    • Mar 31, 2010
  • Caleb Calypso and the Midnight Marauders

    Local playwright Howard L. Craft's new work explores the lives of U.S. soldiers stationed in West Germany with realism and humor.
    • Nov 4, 2009
  • More »

More by Byron Woods

Facebook Activity

Twitter Activity

Comments

Excuse me but, if the company created a performance of Skriker which was oblique and the audience left feeling confused …

by Edwin Davies on The Skriker; more (On the Boards)

I was wrong about the HAIR cast/age issue. The play's creators were in their thirties when they played the leads, …

by Cherryholmes on Burning Coal Theatre's Hair (On the Boards)

© 2014 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation