Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Robi Polgar, Fri., Sept. 14, 2001
The Deluge: Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain
The Vortex, through September 16, Running Time: 1 hr, 15 min
The rain comes down and down and down. It falls on the entire earth: on fields, on olive groves, on animals, and on the small, raw wooden room that is the center of existence for what may be the only two people alive: Yosanoah and his wife, Aliah. They are friends, lovers, spouses, soon parents. But they are moving in opposite directions, more and more -- coming apart just as inevitably as the rain comes down. And in. In this Vortex Repertory Company production, the seeping, leaking, dripping, pouring inevitability of loss and renewed hope makes for a dreamy and wet world, sometimes punctuated with lightning and thunder, but mostly pleasantly adrift in an ocean of sweet, melancholic rain.
Kirk Smith's newest play is a take on the story of Noah and his wife. The Deluge is highly imagistic and poetic, with live music played by Michael Werst, Ken Burchenal, and Amy-Lou Werst -- a trio on violin, guitar, and cello -- complementing the cool, wetness of the environment and the gentle storytelling. In fact, the music is the only "dialogue" for the first seven or eight minutes, as Yosanoah and Aliah interact silently. When you are the only two people in the world, and you know your partner that well, speaking isn't always necessary for communication. But sometimes it is. Sometimes you don't really know your partner as well as you believe, and as Yosanoah and Aliah drift apart, speaking -- or not speaking -- becomes hurtful. It is part of the sad tension that both characters strive to keep their family together, but for Yosanoah, the struggle is to find a way out of the rainy world, while for Aliah the struggle is to try to keep everyone safe at home, despite the increasing sogginess. When it becomes clear that Aliah won't accompany Yosanoah should he leave, their relationship frays.
Matthew Patterson plays Yosanoah, a thinker with a cloudy idea: Build a tower to rise above the rain, perhaps? It takes him a while to conceive building a boat large enough to carry his family to safety. Patterson provides a warm presence, creating a simple, gentle Yosanoah. On occasion, confronted with the impending loss of his love, however, he strikes out with an inner lighting and rumbles a personal thunder. Eryn Gettys plays Aliah, and is equally engaging. She creates in Aliah a deep sensuality, while never losing an edge of protectiveness for her sense of self. She can thunder on occasion, too; but her silence is most damaging in this lover's duet.
Smith allows a lot of time in his writing for images to develop, sometimes, perhaps, too much time, crossing the line between delicate imagery and ponderousness. And director Bonnie Cullum doesn't offer any significant variety of rhythms to explore the poetry in the face of the steady siege of water. But Smith and Cullum do find places to offer gradations within this constant gentleness: There is soft humor in the way the rain finds ways to invade the lives of the two lovers or in the way Aliah presents Yosanoah with their latest child; and while inevitable, the final image is beautifully crafted.
Set designer Ann Marie Gordon creates a driftwood-like setting, which matches the poetry of the play. Jason Amato's lighting does wonders for the atmosphere, but he rarely puts lights on the actors' faces, which makes it hard to really see them, which in turn, makes the show perhaps grimmer than it really is.
Really, the play is a simple, drifting image: a soft, constant rain matching a love that flows with a like gentle constancy.