Form follows theme in Manbites Dog's Seventy Scenes of Halloween revival | Theater | Indy Week
Pin It

Form follows theme in Manbites Dog's Seventy Scenes of Halloween revival 

The Television in "Seventy Scenes of Halloween"

Photo by Jon Haas

The Television in "Seventy Scenes of Halloween"

Form follows theme, if not exactly function, in Manbites Dog Theater's Seventy Scenes of Halloween, a revival of the company's inaugural production in December 1987. Playwright Jeffrey M. Jones (whose surreal, rewarding Tomorrowland was staged by Manbites Dog in 2002) ponders exactly how long a relationship can remain viable as a series of supposedly stabilizing elements are called into question or removed.

In response to the script's challenges, co-directors Akiva Fox and Adam Sobsey appear to have asked just how many traditional dramatic components can be subtracted from a production before the result no longer qualifies as theater. It's a daring, admirably high-risk question—particularly so for Sobsey, who has closely reviewed a number of theater productions over the years in these pages and at The News & Observer. As playwright and directors clearly deconstruct most of the trappings of drama, linearity of plot, costumes, scene, set and suspension of disbelief are sequentially dismantled, in what all but qualifies as a theatrical version of Jenga.

But instead of the deft, finely calculated subtractions called for in such an experiment, a fumbling second-night run revealed the one element that clearly can't be toyed with in such a production: adequate rehearsal. As actors earnestly, audibly conferred backstage between some sequences and called for a scene start-over (neither included in Jones' script), we wondered how much of this show's fall-apart aesthetic was actually intentional.

Emily Hill and Dan VanHoozer make central characters Joan and Jeff a likeable-enough couple who've apparently spent much of their relationship under the light hypnosis of the family television. But as the evening unfolds, Carl Martin and newcomer Amber Wood present a portfolio of characters including bratty trick or treaters, clueless neighbors and, finally, alter egos reflecting Joan and Jeff's own deep-seated phobias and desires.

Jones deserves credit for an ambitious script that probes how easily we become the ghosts—and monsters—in our own relationships. With more rehearsal, this production may yet do it justice. Here's hoping.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Season's greetings and hellish holidays."

Related Locations

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 Theater



Twitter Activity

Comments

Four of our friends accompanied us to this production. We have seen other Wendy Ward productions and loved them all …

by Gann Watson on Embark on a Timely Voyage Into Immigration Issues in I Wish You a Boat (Theater)

Thanks for the correction, Dustin. The playbill listed the wrong actor in the role.

by Byron Woods, INDY Theater and Dance Critic on Evaluating Bare Theatre's Experiment in Free Public Shakespeare on the Eve of Its Final Show (Theater)

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation