Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Visit"

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note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Larry Stark


"The Visit"

by Friedrich Durrenmatt
Adapted and Directed by Dmitry Troyanovsky

Set Design by Zeynep Bakkal
Lighting design by Matthew Richards
Costume Design by Jennifer Moeller
Choreography by Catherine Ulissey
Sound Design by Estevan Benson
Assistant Stage Managers Megan Ash, David Lucas
Stage Manager Samantha LeDoyt

Claire Zachanassian............................................Gillian Mackay-Smith
Alfred Ill..............................................................Adam Garcia
Butcher/Man One/Ensemble...........................................Nathan Thibodeau
Son/Man Two/Husband VIII/Ensemble...................................Michael G. Hall
Husbands VII & IX/Man Three/Ensemble..................................Drew Hinckley
Pastor..................................................................Mike Budwey
Schoolmaster.........................................................Brian C. Fahey
Mayor..................................................................Sean Hopkins
Policeman...............................................................Sean Morris
Station Master/Customer/Ensemble......................................Mark Berglund
Butler..............................................................Geoff P. Palmer
Blind Man One/Ensemble..................................................Aden Hakimi
Blind Man Two/Ensemble...................................................Jen Molnar
Marshall/First Reporter/TV Commentator/Woman One/Ensemble...Susan Terzian Cartiglia
Mrs. Ill/Ensemble......................................................Beth Reardon
Daughter................................................................Lisa Martin
Mayor's Wife/Woman Two...............................................Danielle Kline
Second reporter/Man Four/Ensemble........................................Evan Dahme

The program says Dimitry Troyanovsky not only directed but "adapted" Friedrich Durrenmatt's "The Visit" in his Studio Theatre production at Northeastern University. Whatever his adaptations, the result is a powerfully expressionistic theatrical experience, with several scenes of visual excellence. The play documents the dehumanization of an entire town that is promised a billion-dollar gift from an odd old lady demanding "justice" in exchange. The 18-member cast swiftly shifts roles ("Son/Husband VIII/Man Two"), but at bottom it is the Ensemble as citizens that are the focus of this gripping story.

For this show, Designer Zeynep Bakkal has turned the big black box of the Studio Theatre into a cross between an inner-ghetto schoolyard and an industrial slag-heap. The room is already filled with smokey fog as the show starts, and Gillian Mackay-Smith's ominous entrance as the imperious benefactress --- lit from the back, through a rent in the wall, her black silhouette surrounded by seething, glaring white fog --- is an Orson Welles moment. At one point the citizenry does a wildly joyous dance around the one of their number condemned as a sacrifice, accompanying their giddy frenzy by pounding the floor with bright yellow shoes. Those shoes --- bought on credit --- are the first subtle hint that, despite their words, everyone in town is willing to commit murder if it means a billion dollars, half of it shared by every personal pocket. The cast uses walk-ways halfway up the walls of the theatre, a trap representing the cellar the victim/shop-owner gets his wares from, and rusting steel ladders bolted into those walls. Physically, this is a magnificent spectacle.

And the acting here --- given the age and experience of students --- is fine throughout. Troyanovsky gets slightly exaggerated, solidly individual performances from everyone both individually and as ensemble. Each character --- and many play several in turn --- is a sharply-etched collection of clear, single-minded attitudes. But they are also ready to unite into a choo-choo-ing, bouncing unison to imitate the coming of a train, or to vote --- selflessly of course --- forjustice (and the money). To single out each individual excellence would merely re-state the cast-list, but Gillian Mackay-Smith and Adam Garcia are central as the protagonists, and Aden Hakimi and Jenn Molnar as two boysterously giggly Blinded Men have unforgettable scenes in this triumphantly theatrical production.

Of course, one critic's directrial brilliance is another's annoying self-indulgence, and I took sharp disagreement with Director Troyanovsky at several points. I see no good reason, for instance, to begin the play with street-gangs of male prostitutes graphically turning a trick onstage. And when the Station Master (Mark Berglund) complains the millionairess needlessly stopped an express-train with the emergency cord, he is hustled off-stage from which a distant Pop suggests his summary execution. In a play contrasting moral integrity over greed about the murder of One person, this suggestion that in this town life is already cheap undercuts that necessary contrast.

On the other hand, when the "visitor" wakes, all her artificial body-parts are slowly handed along a chain of sycophants into her bedroom. At her entrance she walks the width of the stage on the crouching backs of the citizenry who scurry around from back to front of the line to lengthen it as she goes. And when she announces her bequest she nods to her butler (Geoff P. Palmer) who tosses a ball of flame into the air, and money magically appears in everyone's pockets. These expressionistic details work beautifully in this effective, forceful production.

Love,
===Anon.


"The Visit" (12 - 22 February)
NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF THEATRE
Studio Theatre, Ell Center, Huntington Avenue, BOSTON, MA
1 (617)373-2247


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