Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Kill Me (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Kill Me as an original play premiered at the Wildclaw Theatre in Chicago. I mention this because when first learning the Visceral Company here in Los Angeles would produce one of their shows, my reaction was excitement! Alas, have never seen Wildclaw. Only read about them. And longed to see one of their productions!

So what is Kill Me all about? Depends. On the most basic level one can say it tells of Cam (Natasha Charles Parker), a troubled young woman who clearly inspires powerful emotions in others. Her lover Grace (Jonica Patella) for all practical purposes fell into Cam's eyes and in a real sense never crawled out. This idea will creep you out while watching the play. I'm just warning you. Likewise Cam's sister Wendy (Angela Stern) continues to feel a shadow or echo across her life, even after years of no contact.

Cam recovers from a short-term coma--one precisely seven days in length from the minute of a car accident to her eyes opening. To the minute. Odd.


She claims to have gone...somewhere. Hell maybe. To have somehow encountered bizarre beings, being that altered her in totally unexpected--and surprisingly horrific--way. Cam insists she cannot now die. This notion fills her with horror. Some might find this puzzling. I do not. But if you do, the play spells it out for you. Watching every single person or thing you love decay and vanish over and over over again--such make for the stuff of nightmares. And that is only the beginning.

But is this true? True in the same sense that the 101 Highway is a factual thing? Something we all perceive and therefore agree exists? Or is it true only in terms of what Cam herself believes? Then again, perhaps it is both. Her trauma might just have given her the ability to see what others cannot, which she interprets in her own way, right or wrong (or both). The monsters that haunt and tease and threaten her--we the audience see them. See how they might just be influencing Grace and Wendy (may I add my love of these character names?). And if they are real, what are they, really? Hallucinations given form, the native monsters of the darkest shadows of our minds, eternal horrors that predate time and shall outlive reality--take your pick!

Said monsters have a name in the program, dubbed the Miseries: (right, clockwise) Yanna Fabian is Paranoia, Lamont Webb Angst, Karen Nicole Dread,  and Alexander Price Despair.

As you has hopefully perceived by now (and if the title weren't enough of a clue), Kill Me is a horror story. Written by Scott T. Barsotti, it uses the same fundamental horror that informs such classics as The Haunting or the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Recall that the Robert Wise film, unlike the remake, followed Shirley Jackson in refusing to "explain" what was happening. Just as we never ever really find out what is up with that Raven--whether or not it is even real. Poor Cam perceives a horror that might crack a stronger will than hers. Whether that horror has any origin other than personal issues and a string of seemingly inexplicable coincidences--does it really matter? She feels an abyss yawn within her. We feel it with her. Likewise, whatever the "objective" facts can one doubt that the two women in her life experience a horror of their own? At the very least this girl they love descends into schizophrenia. Part of  what makes this a horror story is that we hope that's all it is! Because we can be no more sure than they are--which ends up the metaphysical equivalent of nails on a chalkboard.

Cam is the central role and Parker captures well her desperation. Not only in the face of what seems happening to her, but the reaction of those around her. She tries to find the words, not to explain, but to convince, and so loses her way with every breath.

Patella has in effect a harder part, simply because her character switches back and forth in time rather more often. Tricky. Made trickier because I'm not quite sure to whom she and Stern are talking. They have the unenviable task of spending much of the play's start talking to the audience rather than another actor. Very tricky. For that reason, the emotional involvement between ourselves and the cast takes longer than any of us would like. However, it gets there. And by the end, we're cringing. Not from any surgery acted out on stage or some revelation of personal darkness. No, this is Grand Guignol of the soul, of the perceptive mind, and we feel a little tug of the metaphysical hook in our own psyches.

The Miseries very nearly are dance performances rather than acting, but that does them insufficient credit. All four command the stage when they appear, leaving fascination and revulsion in their wake. Not at all an easy thing to do!

Kill Me plays at the Visceral Company's new permanent digs, the Lex Theatre 6760 Lexington Avenue, Hollywood, 90038, at Lexington and Highland (a little north of Santa Monica Boulevard), Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm with Sunday matinees at 3pm. The final performance should be June 2, 2013. Highly recommended for adults who enjoy a disturbing, moving piece of theater than invades your awareness.

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