through February 23
Running Time: 2 hrs
Isobel is lost. Isobel is alone. She wanders the streets, searching for something. Her father? She thinks she sees him, but knows she does not. He's dead, crushed under the wheels of a subway. She thinks she can be seen, but no one seems to see her because, like her father, Isobel is dead, a ghost, and what she's searching for is something that was stolen from her: her life.
Murder is not the only way to take a life. Infidelity can take it. So can disease. So can rape and exploitation and cruelty and oppression. You can lose your life in many ways other than simply dying. You can take a life through little but accusation, never mind lies or the truth. Taking life is not hard. Giving life, simply allowing others to live -- now there's a difficult task.
This Kia Productions presentation of Judith Thompson's play Lion in the Streets mines some deep material, and rarely have I seen a group of people so clearly committed to and passionately involved with their work. Director Kathryn Lott, who also acts in the production, has coached her performers, who mostly play multiple roles, up to a soul-baring level that is at times almost difficult to watch. This is particularly so of Debbie DeSimmone as a rejected wife who does a striptease in front of her friends in an attempt to lure her husband back home and also as a woman who wants to die on her own terms; Marc Pouhe as her philandering husband and as a priest who mistakenly believes he carries an old sin; Lott as a woman who finds redemption in a jelly doughnut and as a bride who will do literally anything to please her potential husband; and Rachel Scott as the childlike Isobel.
The structure of the play is episodic, scenes playing as Isobel wanders from place to place, watching one in someone's living room and then following one of the people she finds there to a different place and watching another scene. Besides Isobel's ghostly presence, other aspects of the play are surreal as well; it begins with a circus-like dance in which masked actors swirl around the open stage of the Blue Theater, frightening, seemingly on the edge of losing control. Like the lion of the title, there's something wild here in the midst of apparent civilization, something untamed in a very dangerous way.
This is, in fact, the most appropriate metaphor for the production as a whole. While I got the sense from the first that I was watching a group of people totally committed to a play and its message, director Lott often has her actors go too far over the edge. Sometimes she allows them to move continuously, which often is distracting, and at other times she allows them to go to such vocal extremes, either high or low, that it's difficult to understand what's being said. The passion of the actors often affected me, but it didn't move me in an ultimate sense because I never felt I was being allowed the room to put myself in the characters' shoes and project myself onto the stage. Despite the material's power, I never believed that Lott or her actors really trusted it or what they were doing with it. They should have.
That said, if you want to see a group of highly dedicated performers who really seem to care, not just about themselves, but about the world, then the Blue Theater is where you need to go.
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