Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mosaic Theatre: In a Dark, Dark, House (3 reviews)

Mosaic Theatre opened its production of Neil LaBute's In a Dark, Dark House on May 28, 2009.
On the grounds of a private psychiatric facility, two brothers confront each other. Drew has been court-confined for observation, and he has called his older brother, Terry, to corroborate his claim of childhood sexual abuse by a young man many summers ago.

Through pain and acknowledged betrayal, the brothers come to grips with and begin to understand the legacy of abuse, both inside and outside their family home.
Richard Jay Simon directed a cast that included Ricky Waugh, Terry Hardcastle, and Miriam Wiener. Set design by Sean McClelland, with lights by Suzanne Jones.

The Miami Herald has declined to review this production.

Mary Damiano reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
Innocence lost is the pervading theme in Neil Labute’s In a Dark, Dark House, now getting a handsome production at the Mosaic Theatre in Plantation.
Mosaic’s production has strong direction by Richard Jay Simon and two powerful performances by Waugh and Hardcastle, who contradicts his boyish good looks with seething rage barely hidden below the surface. But the real star of In a Dark, Dark House is Sean McClelland’s scenic design. With just a few changes, the sprawling set is the rehab grounds, a miniature golf course and Drew’s expansive backyard. It’s also a perfect metaphor for childhood, an outdoor paradise filled with trees that beg to be climbed and a swing that yearns to be swung. And there in the center, looming over the brothers’ every move, is their childhood treehouse, complete with all the trappings of childhood. Except it’s on its side, the better for us to see what’s inside, but also to illustrate a childhood turned topsy turvy, off kilter, frozen in time, and still haunting the adults who once played there.
Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
Miriam takes her character's naivete to scary places. She's not merely pretending to awkwardness — this is not the shoe-scuffing adolescent of most plays. This is the real deal, a girl putting on what she thinks are charming airs in the presence of a handsome older man, thinking she's getting away with it, and failing to a degree that she'll probably only understand seven or eight years hence. Wiener's job here is to make you squirm — if, that is, Drew's howling about getting molested in his childhood tree house hadn't done it already — and thanks to nigh-supernaturally sensitive direction from Richard Jay Simon, squirm you will.
Hideous things happen. Hideous truths are revealed. Hideous betrayals occur amid the moist greens and bone-white statuary of Sean McLelland's romantically dilapidated set. There is an ending, but it is not a happy one, and none of the characters' prospects are particularly cheery. And even Terry's anger at the man who allegedly molested his younger brother is shown to be less-than-noble.
But it's a hopeful play, still — at least in terms of its writer's future. Where once he wrote stories of monsters who seemed to elect monstrosity over some civilized alternative, these sorry creatures can't help it. They're victims of their anger, or their perceived helplessness, or their unavoidable inexperience. When Terry says, near the end of the play, that "children are the most important things in the world," it is both frightening — because of his interlude with young Jennifer — and irreducibly true. He has to mean it, because all around him lays the ruins of a world in which children were treated cavalierly.
Its characters are a long way from good and an even longer way from being saved. But you get the sense that they're worth saving. For the man who wrote Fat Pig and for the audience that laughed at it, it's a good start.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for the Sun-Sentinel:
Director Richard Jay Simon and his workmanlike cast provide a sturdy, intriguing presentation that sags in the first act when it should be drumhead taut. But it roars to a satisfying, fiery finish in the second act even though not all the pieces quite fit cleanly.
Waugh is persuasive as the weak-willed and self-indulgent younger brother. Miriam Wiener also is convincing as a spunky 16-year-old caught up in the brothers' machinations.

Hardcastle's performance is problematic in part because of his past roles. An unassailably skilled hand at musicals, comedy and even some drama, the actor lacks the dangerous edge and no-limits pragmatism that the part requires in the first act. But he makes up for it in the second act when Terry's agony and anger boil over in purging revelations.

In a Dark Dark House plays at Mosaic Theatre through June 21, 2009.

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