Monday, January 23, 2017

Carnivora—theatre vertigo—SE Portland

“Here There Be Beasties…”

This futuristic offering by Matthew B. Zrebski and directed by him is playing at their space at the Shoebox Theatre, 2110 SE 10th Ave., through February 18th.  (Note:  This is an R-rated production for some very adult material.)  For more information, go to their space, www.theatrevertigo.org or call 503-481-8655.

“…Good Lord Deliver Us!” as the phrase concludes except, in this case, the reigning Prophet, Garland (Nathan Dunkin) has more in common with the demigod of ancient myth, Abraxis, with two faces, being both demonic and benign, as well being a manipulator, depending on his mood.  And, being his “Chosen People,” as Lorraine (Stephanie Cordell) and her husband, Hunter (Tom Mounsey) are, is as you’ll find out, definitely a mixed bag.  For they live in an age, universe, that Time has forgotten and where anything can, and does, happen.

As I can only tell you limited parts of the story, as I don’t choose to be a spoiler, I will try to give you a flavor of it.  Kurt Vonnegut and such books as “Slaughterhouse Five” and “From Time to Timbuktu” do similar things with bending time and philosophies.  Also the filmmaker, Richard Kelly (“Donnie Darko” and “Southland Tales”) also has dark visions and manipulates time.  “The Rapture,” a film about the end days, would have much in common with this story, too.  So, there are some points of reference for you in deciding whether this is your type of story.

The tale is a journey of one woman, Lorraine, to discover the truth of who she is and what role she is to play in this brave, new world she has been awakened to.  She is unceremoniously birthed into this strange place in the 21st Century having no memory of her past existence.  She soon discovers that some of the world is inhabited by creatures out of a prehistoric, horror movie and seem to be cannibals.  There is Coyote (Holly Wigmore) and Bobcat (R. David Wyllie), both on a chain-like tether only able to release their terror in limited ways.  Then there is Woodwoman (Clara-Liis Hillier), who appears to be the leader of the pack and also more articulate than the others.  They appear periodically throughout the play as a sort of demented Greek Chorus, nudging Lorraine’s memory in certain directions.

It seems that she had a happy family at one time, with her husband, Hunter, an ex-Vet with some emotional problems, and their two bright, successful children, Charlie (James Luster) and Brenda (Shawna Nordman).  But “times, they are a-changin’” and into their lives appears the Preacher/Prophet, Garland, whose church predicts a new order of things and beings to come.  He tells them that the current Establishment is devouring the world (any reference to the current political situation could be intentional) and they must make drastic, hard choices if there is to be change.  Part of that change is a parents’ worst nightmare.  More I cannot tell you, as it is for you to discover, but know it is not a pretty picture.  Perhaps, “what we sow, so shall we reap.”

The setting and messages are stark and dark but also a good learning tool as to where we might be headed.  The set (Kaye Blankenship), the costumes/make-up (Kaia Maarja Hillier), lighting (Carl Faber) and music/sound (Zrebski) add immensely to the effect and success of this production.  Zrebski is indeed in uncharted waters but, as I’ve mentioned before, they are others who have traversed this murky sea before.  The cast he has chosen, I sense, is highly immersed in his vision and are all very powerful in their presentations and, I’m sure, are emotionally drained by the conclusion after almost three hours.

Cordell as the lead is a very good choice as she takes you on the roller-coaster journey through her life, sometimes having sympathy with her and at other times in horror.  Dunkin is always powerful onstage and his preacher is a little too uncomfortable for me (that’s a compliment), as he is eerily like some of the self-same characters I’ve seen in real life.  And Hillier is a treasure in all she does onstage.  She definitely keeps you guessing as to who or what she is.  For me perhaps the most powerful scene is toward the end with the dialogue between Hillier and Cordell, two pros at work.  And she is a damn fine singer as well, as is Nordman, who captivated me with her ballad about a girl name Hannah, beautifully sung.

This is a show I recommend but with the reservations I’ve already mentioned.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.