2 by Sinner: Unburthen (To My Soul's Delight!) & If Water Were Present It Would Be Called Drowning
nytheatre.com review by Pete Boisvert
August 12, 2008
Good surrealism is hard to pull off. It's all too easy for it to come across as too abstract, too self-conscious, or just plain too weird. It's exciting, then, to catch the polished and well-crafted 2 By Sinner, which achieves a near perfect balance, avoiding these pitfalls.
The title of the evening refers to John Sinner, a surrealist painter and theatre artist from Los Angeles. Sinner pulls triple duty in the evening, writing, directing, and sharing acting duties with Betsy Moore in two short plays.
Unburthen (To My Soul's Delight!) begins the evening with Sinner entering as Brother Hardy in a top hat, uniform jacket, and petticoat, casting flower petals before his own path, pulling a white rope that trails behind him offstage. At the end of his rope is a giant of a woman, standing ten feet tall on a rolling pedestal. Moore's Sister Peg sports a fantastic blonde wig, towering high above her head and a psychotic grin.
Throughout Unburthen, Sinner and Moore riff off the story of Adam and Eve as two grotesque siblings in kabuki face makeup and outlandish costumes. The play has a loopy, wild feel to it, bouncing around a central theme of paranoia and isolationism through shifts in style and tone. Moore uses surreal makeup (designed by Aviva Perea) expertly to her advantage. Her flexible face contorts, shifting the bright red lips into a snarl, a scream, a smile that could eat the world.
If Water Were Present It Would Be Called Drowning is ostensibly another two-character play, but Sinner largely sits this one out. Moore delivers a monologue as the bored domestic housewife Lolly, frozen in growth and ambition while yearning for release from her domestic prison. It's well-worn material, but Moore's performance brings a natural emotional grace that makes the character completely believable.
Sinner plays Lolly's distracted husband, sitting off to one side of the family dinner table, sleeping in a bowler hat behind his evening paper. Lolly regales the audience with fantasies of escape while maniacally setting and clearing the dinner settings and scaling the table. She confesses to taking secret trips to a seedy motel room, a chance to escape the identity dictated to her by her domestic station.
Moore delivers stellar performances in both plays. As Sinner plays the supporting role on stage (particularly in If Water Were Present) the evening rests firmly on Moore's shoulders. With magnetic appeal, she draws the audience in to her off-kilter, slightly insane ramblings. Both Moore and Sinner tear into the material with a savage enthusiasm.
If you're in the mood for tightly executed surrealism, it would be well worth your time to check out 2 By Sinner. It's certainly a strange evening of theatre, but Moore and Sinner carry the audience through with great skill.