nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
June 9, 2012
If you are an adventurous theatergoer and are looking for what curiosities alternative theater might have to offer you need look no further than AntiMatter Collective’s Demonology. Staged in what seems to be an abandoned warehouse way off the beaten path in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, this frightening and fascinating experience will make you feel like you’ve been missing something even if you're a regular devotee of downtown independent theater.
Demonology is two short plays staged in different sections of an echoing expanse. The evening begins when we are asked to walk to the back of the huge open floor in almost total darkness with only a single light at the very end as a beacon. There we hear the first play, The Dreams in the Witch House, which is adapted from the H.P. Lovecraft's short story of the same name. Here a student of physics and the occult wakes to tell us of her fears and dreams. She has been living in a ghostly old house while she studies and finds that a large rat with a human face has been terrorizing the house. She describes events at a fever pitch but the gist is that a dimension-spanning witch wants to use her to get to another tenant’s baby for sacrifice.
Lizzie Vieh plays the student, setting the perfect mood for such an eerie tale of psychological taunting. Her anxiety becomes infectious. I felt put on edge by her breathless ranting and fretting. The other characters are represented by beautifully crafted shadow puppets designed by Roxanne Palmer. Their sinister expressions and shadowy presence impeccably support director/adaptor Will Fulton’s vision for a world permeated by creeps from beyond. Fulton’s adaptation is concise and sharp, turning a narrative into a monologue that fully embodies the spirit of the story.
Next is a “remapping” of the Marlowe’s Faust titled sixsixsix, for which we are led into a large open space where a giant pentagram has been drawn in chalk on the floor. We are asked to stand in the confines of the pentagram and to “open the book” which is placed within reach. One brave audience member cracks the book open and the play begins. Two characters are in the throes of passion until one of them begins to cry out in pain. The same two actors then enter as children walking through the woods telling scary stories about the devil having penises for fingers. Finally, more of the set is revealed to show that there are five small sets placed all around the pentagram—a bed, a lounge chair and end table, a microphone, etc. The play makes its way around the circle telling several intertwining stories—one of a strange couple trying to find a safe word for their rough sex, another of a father and daughter trying to deal with the loss of the mother, and then there are the two comic demons. The story ends, of course, in the center with an exciting life or death struggle.
Written by Gregory Moss, sixsixsix doesn’t speak all that much to Faust but it certainly does speak to a contemporary audience with bawdy, dark humor and twisted action. Director Dan Rogers’ staging is aggressive and clever. He brilliantly switches gender roles making the rough sex perpetrated by a woman playing a man much more palatable—almost even farcical. Rogers creates a terse atmosphere where anything from comedy to depravity may happen.
Adam Scott Mazer and Eileen Meny are absolutely fantastic in every role they take on in this warped world. They are both alternately funny and menacing. I loved Mazer’s dark, boa-touting, cabaret style performance of his song “I Fucked the Devil.” Meny’s brooding and jagged male characters are an unsettling reflection of the male ego.
Demonology may not be for everyone but it is so well done and the experience of being in a chilling warehouse where every word reverberates into your core is awesome. I left wishing I had the chance to see more daring and thrilling theater such as this and I think you will too.