Friday, October 24, 2008

Dark Rituals

I got two broad impressions from seeing Dark Rituals at Stagecoach Theatre. One was that the show's many plot twists keep it pretty entertaining and are pulled off fairly well; the other is that there isn't a single sympathetic character in the play. I'm going to focus on the characters, since to talk about the plot twists would be to ruin them, but that's not to say that the show isn't worth going to just to see what happens.

There's really no one to root for in this play. In fact, the one neutral character is Vernon (Anthony Polidori), the Native American helping the main character with her book; everyone else is profoundly negative. The ostensible protagonist is Anne McCauley (played by Regina Yegge). She expects her son (Ian Taylor) to do her plumbing, all the while lecturing him and whining that he doesn't love her. She badmouths his job and his wife (played by Karen Holcomb with just enough bitchiness to make you dislike her a bit, but not enough to justify Anne's rude remarks) to his face. And as an anthropologist, she's intellectually dishonest, writing sensationalized pop anthropology books that bastardize Native American and African rituals and take liberties with the truth. She doesn't really care about the cultures she's exploring, just about churning out another bestseller for her Dark Rituals series: Dark Rituals of the Headhunters of the Amazon, Dark Rituals of Voodoo, Dark Rituals of the North American Gangster, and now Dark Rituals of the North American Indians. Were Yegge a little more comfortable with her role, she could easily have become the person I most loved to hate in this play.

As it is, that dubious honor might go either to Ian Taylor, who played Anne's son Harrison McCauley, who we soon learn is plotting his mother's death, or to Perry Decker as Dr. David Murray, who has his own insidious side. (Although, since I'm not rooting for Anne, I'm actually not sure I can really hate Harrison for plotting her demise. Maybe I am sort of rooting for him in the way you might root for Wile E. Coyote to catch the Roadrunner. What? Don't tell me I'm the only one who did that.) Most likely it would go to Taylor, who comes across as tensely threatening at times, mocking his mother in a twisted, almost Joker-esque way. It was a nice turnaround from a family dynamic that reminded me of nothing so much as the horrible comic strip "Momma."

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