My last show to review for the 2008 Indianapolis Fringe Festival is “The Caverns.” It was written by one of my favorite actors, Marc Szewczyk, and presented by Brand X Theatre. It was directed by Katelyn Coyne. The stage manager is Marti Brown.
This is the group that you may have glimpsed walking around on their performance days with green stripes painted on their faces.
I was intrigued by their three-minute excerpt at the Fringe Preview Party, but I waited too long to see it. It is a “huh?” piece that demands that its audience be refreshed and alert in order to fully experience it. In other words, it is NOT a good piece to see as your 35th Fringe show of the week.
So when I went to Theatre on the Square Sunday night, I was already wiped out. Then, after the house opened and I found my favorite seat in the back/top row, I heard the tinny sound of a radio playing somewhere, or someone listening to his or her mp3 player with faulty earbuds. That annoying, metallic-sounding distraction existed throughout the show. I never did identify where it was coming from.
But in any case, it demolished any last chance I might have had to concentrate on this challenging show.
So…all I can tell you is that there are two groups of beings living deep underground. One group has been there a long, long, long time. The other has arrived more recently but still does not remember what the surface is like, or even that there is a surface. The first group is blind, in a way, but is aware of the second group. The second group can see each other, but not the first group.
One tiny woman, Ay-Lee (Kelli Johnson) in the first group holds a rope that is tied to a pretty hunky man, O-Na (Jeff Martin), but even though she is so much smaller than he, she appears to hold the power in their relationship. He begs her not to leave him tied to a rock for years like his last rope-holder did.
Occasionally, he stretches out, face down, on the ground, and she walks over him.
It is all very mythic.
In the meantime, the much more pragmatic Hap (Jeff Irlbeck) and the very leader-like General (John Carver) are trying to make and/or use a map to establish where they are in relation to the rest of the caverns. The General’s daughter, Luci (Sunny Huang), is also with them. Hap has a stubborn streak. The General loves his daughter…until he goes crazy.
Huang also plays Luci’s dead mother, aka The General’s wife/lover, Ay-dris. Both Luci and the General miss Ay-dris deeply.
Hey! Maybe I understood more than I thought I did.
But then there are explosions and identity crisises and psychotic episodes and deaths and…no, I really didn’t/don’t get this show after all.
But I really don’t get real life sometimes either. Maybe that’s the point.
When the audience enters the house, Ay-Lee and O-Na are standing motionless. When the show is over, the audience leaves with some of the characters still on stage, again standing motionless.
And I am left wishing I could see this show again – or at least read the script – after I’ve spent a week on a beach getting daily massages.
Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com