nytheatre.com review by Ivanna Cullinan
January 11, 2008
"Hope I see you in Hell."
Only in the dynamic storytelling and Irish magical realism found in Mark O'Rowe's Terminus could this sentiment have such unexpected sweetness. This wonderful new piece from the Abbey Theater, Dublin, is currently playing as part of the Public Theater's Under the Radar festival and bless that festival for bringing it here!
Essentially, three people tell their tale of the same night but Terminus is so much more than that. It is a liquid evening of narrative, fully satisfying the desire for good theatre through stout acting and rich text. The three intertwining monologues start from fairly simple circumstances, and grow into a dense, macabre descent through the night with a brilliantly, bitterly Irish sense of humor.
Upon stepping back from the piece, the starting details seem so banal—a suicide hotline, the numbing boredom of an evening at home, a local hall turned into a disco for the night—yet rapidly O'Rowe twists them to the unexpected and with the strength of his cast, this piece exerts a pull that is irresistible. And in certain ways, the piece shouldn't work. The writing delves into a focused exploitation of various rhyme strategies yet it manages not to become subject to them. Instead this language moves with pulsing rhythms that propel the stories. At times the connections among the characters seem almost too connected, in a way that could be termed as "neat" except that this story makes its own boundaries and has set them within such super-real parameters that, of course, things fit in a way our mundane reality denies—think Conor McPherson meets Haruki Murakami. That this text is handled by such a fine cast makes the production even more of a gift.
Although things start off quietly enough as each character puts forward a portion of their tale, the picture quickly becomes rougher and more disturbing. First A (beautifully played by Andrea Irvine), a teacher working the suicide hotline, sets off to rescue a former student, casual violence enters the story. Then B (the strong and understated Eileen Walsh) takes off for a night out with friends that goes beyond questioning who her friends are and probes what reality can contain. But the first jolt into the truly horrific comes as C (Aidan Kelly, who savors the stage) casually mentions some truly terrible things with an almost Guignol-like relish of his own violence. Yet the story trumps the horrors with a humor that makes it possible to go along. At times I came to dread what one would say in the next speech, while desperately wanting to know what would be revealed. It is the finest kind of storytelling and utterly gripping. When I checked my watch at the end to confirm the running time, I found I had honestly lost track of the time. I had no idea how much time had passed—something that has not happened for a very, very long time in my theatergoing experience.
The word "terminus" (thank you Wikipedia) means "a robust physical marker that identifies the start of a land boundary or the change in a boundary..." This Terminus establishes a startling landscape of narrative and a fantastically robust piece of theatre. See it.