Sunday, November 3, 2013

Foxfinder—Artists Rep—SW Portland

Nothing to Fear but Fear itself
The U.S. premiere of this play by Dawn King is directed by Artists Rep’s Artistic Director, Dámaso Rodriguez and plays through December 1st.  It is playing at their space at SW Alder St. & 16th Ave.  For more information go to their site at www.artistsrep.org or call 503-241-1278.

Themes/Stories that could be compared to this tale, reside in such a play as Arthur Miller’s, The Crucible and the incident of the Salem Witch Trials, as well as the McCarthy era, where hysteria ruled.  And it relates favorably to Orwell’s, 1984, where an unseen government is in control and, to a more recent film, Shyamalan’s, The Village, where a mysterious Beast is holding the villagers at bay.  Or books by Kafka, as they all are kin to this scary tale of control, dominance and a loss of will.

The story tells of some English farmers, Samuel (Shawn Lee) and Judith (Sara Hennessy) Covey that may have a failing year with their crops.  Their closest neighbor and friend, Sarah Box (Amanda Soden) is also on the borderline of a bad year.  It could be due to flooding in their fields, or just bad luck or, possibly, an infestation of…foxes.

This spurns the government to send an investigator, William Bloor (Joshua Weinstein), to discover the causes of such failure, as the population depends on prosperous crops to feed the masses.  If they are pronounced as failures, their farm will be taken and they could be separated and sent to work in factories in the city. 

But Bloor is no ordinary man.  He has been raised/indoctrinated by the state from childhood for this position.  His ultimate goal is to rid the country of foxes, although he has never seen one himself.  They are purported to be the cause of all the unrest in the land.  With foxes eliminated, there would be no more failure of crops but, also, no one to blame for it, either.  And this beast is not about “…to go gentle into this good night.”

Bloor’s job is to go into minute details of these farmers lives, even their sex practices, personal sorrows, and they are encouraged to share knowledge about their neighbors, possibly in exchange for a good report to the state from him.  There is also an equally mysterious, underground organization that espouses the blasphemous thought that there are no foxes, that it is simply a ploy from the government to keep people in fear and under their control. 

Anyone allied with such groups will encounter dire consequences and it is encouraged for neighbors to report such erratic behavior, in exchange for favorable treatment from their ruling body.  Bloor writes all this information down in a secret, black book he keeps.  But, as he gets to know the people, and never seeing any physical evidence of foxes, he, himself begins to doubt.  Until, that is, Samuel begins to believe Bloor and confesses he has seen signs and heard noises that could be evidence of foxes.

They go together on a final hunt to ultimately prove or disprove the lore of the fox.  To give any more away would spoil the ending but, needless to say, it keeps you in suspense almost from the beginning.  King has written a play that grips one’s primal fear of the unknown and, like a bulldog, won’t let go.  A childhood terror exposed of just what’s really  lurking in the closet or hiding under the bed in the deep, dark night.

Rodriguez has, with minimal setting, given us a ghost story where the real villain just may be brought to light by holding a mirror up to ourselves.  He, and King, have expertly led this cast (and us) on a slippery journey into the basic core of ourselves.  Although a tale for adults, it stretches across the boundaries of age, gender and culture.

The cast does well in creating this creepy atmosphere.  Soden and Hennessy give us two, rather ordinary people and do well in sharing to what length a person will go to stay alive and, perhaps, just blend into the crowd.  Lee as the, at first, skeptical husband, does nicely in layering his performance, so that we really don’t know whether he has finally gone mad, or is now a serious believer. 

And Weinstein is excellent in the conflicted role of the investigator.  He tries to hold onto his robotic beliefs in, perhaps, a myth and wanting/needing to have the feelings of the warmth and companionship of ordinary humans.  We sense his torment and it is to the actor’s credit that we see this so clearly.

I recommend this play.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.