by Sergei Burbank · December 6, 2013
Everyday Inferno’s one-act anthology, If on a Winter’s Night..., presents three disparate works by skilled playwrights and engaging casts. Producing groups tend to try and find common threads to bind together disparate works (who knows why: easier to entice write-ups and ticket sales, perhaps?) but whatever conceit they attempt rarely holds together. Everyday Inferno avoids trying to bind the pieces together at all, and hazards that three well-conceived, well-executed pieces will find their pace and their audience on their own merits. It’s a winning strategy, and clear evidence that this group of theater artists knows what they’re doing.
The evening begins with Matusek’s People Will Talk About You Sometimes -- less a narrative experience, and more a prose poem that explores the disparate lives of strangers introduced to each other through the attempted suicide of a mutual friend. The lyricism of the script is fully evident, as some lines are recited by the full company in the style of a chorale, and then suddenly naturalistic scenes appear; phrases are repeated and passed forward from character to character like musical themes. The facts of the plot, such as they are, are repeated and distorted like a grotesque round of telephone (what implement was used? a razor? a gun? a car? all make appearances in the telling and retelling). The entire cast is fully game for the endeavor, devoting their voices and body fully into the experience, even if it seems at times as difficult for the performers as the audience to follow the thread as the figures on stage alternate between a Greek Chorus and fully embodied naturalistic characters. It is a challenging piece -- and worth the attempt.
In DeLashmutt’s The Policy, Jessie (Alexa Cappiello) is paid a visit by insurance agents Mr. Lange and Mr. Pickles (Artem Kreimer and Finn Kilgore) peddling a most unique hedge against future emotional destruction. Their insurance isn’t against fire or theft, but rather the destruction wrought by unfaithful lovers and selfish friends. The lighter possibilities of this premise are immediately offset by the demeanor of Messrs. Lange and Pickles, who invade Jessie’s living room with the alacrity and just-this-side-of-sinister comportment that wouldn’t be out of place in a production of Pinter. DeLashmutt’s snappy banter is well-served by Sommer’s whirling direction, but it is Finn Kilgore’s deadpan Mr. Pickles who steals the show (and, perhaps, the evening).
Jen Tries Vacation, by G.D. Kimble, begins as a situation comedy in which two white urban professionals find themselves lost in a fringe neighborhood looking for a new eatery; it quickly descends into an impressionistic farce as the male member of the pair, Finn (Mark Paul Schulz), metamorphoses into an intrepid 19th century colonial explorer (complete with pith helmet) while Jen (Grace Painter) attempts to connect with a neighborhood regular, Reefer (Rodrikus Springfield). The piece wickedly tackles issues of gentrification and racism and quite neatly avoids easy clichés (an inspired bit involves Reefer becoming invisible to Finn whenever he breaks out of slang and speaks proper English). The play’s absurd comedy (with characters venturing forth as if into the jungle to find luxury goods) collides with the untidy reality of gentrification: the play doesn’t seek a tidy resolution for the sake of plot -- there is none to be had, as neither side in this collision fully understands the other. The script illuminates and refracts human experience, never diminishing it, in the tradition of the best theater has to offer.