nytheatre.com review by Charles Battersby
June 5, 2005
TheDrillingCompaNY’s Revenge is an evening of short plays that all share the theme of vengeance. With seven plays written by seven different playwrights, there is a very wide range of personalities and styles present in the evening, ranging from serious avant-garde pieces to realistic dramas, and some silly farces too. Such diversity will mean that most audience members will certainly find something they’ll enjoy, but the drawback is there’ll probably be a play in a style they don’t like, as well.
There’s a good balance of comedy and tragedy throughout the show, with the more serious pieces raising issues about the morality of seeking revenge, while the lighter ones use vengeance as a motivation for such silly concepts as a farmer turning his wife into a pig. Unfortunately, a few are so surreal that the revenge theme comes across as more of an afterthought than a guiding force.
On the positive side, several of the pieces stand out. Fans of the dramatic will no doubt appreciate Neil Olson’s Black Paintings, about a painter (Hamilton Clancy) and his former lover (Brigitte Barnett), who happens to have custody of his paintings. There’s a Medea-easque twist at the end which truly comes as a surprise, and provides a good deal of emotional impact for such a short piece. The most realistic play of the evening, it made a fine close for the first act.
The comedic aspects of revenge are seen in Paul Siefken’s farce The Agenda, which details the machinations of a gay rights movement plotting to overthrow the government. A hysterical scheme is revealed when a Senator’s son learns that he was turned gay by a massive conspiracy to take revenge on political conservatives. The left wing attitude seen here occurs in a couple of other plays as well, making for an unofficial second theme of the evening, but the lighter touch of The Agenda makes it better suited for political messages then some of the more serious works.
The final piece of the night is arguably the best of the show. In The Dorsal Striatum by Trish Harnetieux, we find Jack (Dave Marantz), a scientist who’s been jilted by his wife and is desperately seeking vengeance. He discovers that thoughts of revenge stimulate a part of the brain called the dorsal striatum. With the right equipment, these brain impulses can be harnessed into pure electricity (a la The Matrix). Jack dreams of becoming a famous, respected scientist, and rubbing his success in his ex-wife’s face. Sure enough, he makes a helmet that can draw electricity from the dorsal striatum, and uses it to power a prop lamp (that really lights up onstage). Just how powerful is the human desire to get revenge? Well, this play let’s audiences watch one man explore that question… with light-up visual aides too.
The other four plays, while well-executed, were less to my tastes, and included A Luncheon by Vincent Delaney, Ms. Santos’ Dream After Reading Medea by Sheri Graubert, and Bruce by C. Denby Swanson. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to see the seventh play, Brian Dykstra's Youngsters.
There’s some attention-deserving design work at play in Revenge. The entire show uses one set, which has a unique, versatile, and innovative design. The back wall of the playing area is composed of vertical planks that can be moved forward to create walls in a different shape for each play. Paul Gelinas deserves praise for such a clever design. Dans Sheehan’s lighting is also of note, particularly when he uses red flashes to simulate some offstage murders. A live percussionist (Tom Garvey) is also on hand to provide music and sound effects.
TheDrillingCompaNY routinely presents evenings of short plays all based around a single theme. Although every shot fired in this evening isn’t guaranteed to hit, any audience member will definitely find something here to enjoy.