In a Dark Dark House produced by Wasatch Theater Company is just that – dark! In a play with so many twists and turns, a reviewer is hard pressed to give an in-depth reflection without people crying “spoiler.” Thus, it makes it very difficult for me to truly express my enjoyment and love of this production – which I highly recommend seeing!
With that in mind, the first 15 minutes of the show reveals a successful but disbarred attorney in court-ordered rehab after a DUI. As an addict in recovery, he has brought in his older brother, a military vet – now security guard, to help validate the childhood roots behind his addiction. From the beginning, this brotherly relationship is obviously strained. The awkward tension is often occupied with rough housing and testosterone filled jabs at each other.
In a cold and breathtaking look at the nature, or rotten nature of man, we dive into the loss of childhood innocence and the devastating outcome of those victims to the pain this world can deliverer.
Writer Neil LaBute presents us with a puzzle play, where he give us just enough to start putting the pieces together until he unveils a game changing piece. What we start with, takes several detours before the final component is snapped into place. More than once, I found myself holding my breath as an inevitable reveal came barreling to spoken existence.
Director Sam C. McGinnis V adeptly draws out the sympathetic emotions of these complex and often dark characters. The pace in the first and last scenes are intense with staging that often highlights the distance in the emotional relationship of the brothers.
Lucas Bybee as the recovering addict Drew and Brandon Sean Pearson as his older brother Terry brought an emotional vulnerability to two fairly rough and troubled men. Again, it’s hard to delve into too many specifics without revealing plot twists but I was swept away with the intensity and depth of these two performances.
Near the end of the first act, as Bybee delivered a heartfelt confession of events past, I felt as if I were sitting in a room alone with him. His connection to the character and the simple conveyance of emotion that was displayed in his eyes was magnificent. Pearson’s ability to radiate anger and still come across as a lost child still has me reeling. I’m sure I stopped breathing during the retelling of his last interaction with their father and the final hug shared with his brother. I anxiously wait for Bybee’s next production and hope that Pearson plans to stay in Salt Lake as he would be a valuable addition to our local thespian community.
The second act was awkward for me. I think there were several factors that played into my disconnect with the scene. First, the age difference is written to be between a man in his late 30s (Pearson) and a 16-year-old girl (Lexie Allen). When in reality, the actors didn’t appear to have a 20 + year age difference between them. Thus, some of the discomfort that is actually intended came across as forced. In addition, while there is supposed to be some connection between the characters, again – it felt fake. Finally, the scene itself deals with difficult ideas. In order for a scene like this to be received, there must be some level of vulnerability or honesty for the audience to relate to. It may be the topic, writing, direction or acting but sadly, I didn’t connect with these characters so I was rather indifferent to what was happening to them.
From a technical aspect, the sound and lighting were done well. There didn’t appear to be anything exciting happening with the lights but the scenes were simple and didn’t call for a lot. The music pre and post show were excellent choices, so much so that I am interested in more information on the songs played. The subtle sounds of chattering partygoers and children at the miniature-golf park played into the reality of the subconscious settings. The set was simple and served its purpose, though rather squeaky at times in the center – which made it difficult to hear. I think the choice to play to a theater in the round type of setting was brave but didn’t work. It would be better set up in a type of a proscenium (seats only in front of the stage) arrangement. I had an excellent seat but fear those on the opposite side of me may not have. In addition, empty seats are much more obvious when people are spread thin.
Overall, wow! Even after I got home, I still felt the tension in my shoulders. My favorite type of theater is the dark, edgy drama that Wasatch Theater Company often produces. With the talent they typically have and the pieces they opt to produce, they are always a must see for me. Their production of In a Dark Dark House didn’t disappoint. I’ve already recommended this show to several people. If you like things that challenge you, make you a little bit uncomfortable and leave you unsettled – I highly recommend this outstanding production of In a Dark Dark House from director Sam C. McGinnis V and Wasatch Theater Company.
In a Dark Dark House plays thru January 28, 2012 located in the Studio Theater at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center (138 West 300 South) in Salt Lake City. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased through ARTTIX.ORG. For more information, visit WASATCHTHEATER.ORG or call 801-446-5657.