BWW Reviews: Equinox Theatre's AND THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT - a Haunting Production!
Equinox Theatre presents Terence McNally's fascinating debut AND THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT, playing now through March 17th. Meet Ruby and her children, Sigfried and Lakme. They have barricaded themselves and their entire family away in a cellar, fearful of the sinister world outside. Together, they lure "special visitors" to their home, only to seduce, taunt, and ultimately destroy them. Now let's face it – this is one odd show, which is why the Bug Theatre (which brought you such shows such as The House of Yes and Night of the Living Dead) is the perfect venue for such a strange and haunting production. "The waiting is so terrible and we don't even know what it is!" pretty much sums up the air of anxiety and anticipation hanging like an oppressive blanket over the whole plot. The ominous announcement made at the start of the show set the expectation for something out of the ordinary. Although Act I seemed to drag just a bit and was confusing at times, it laid the foundation for what was to come. When we dived into Act II, the cast found its rhythm and the bizarre palate came into sharp focus - a total mindf**k of Clarence for their nocturnal amusement. Matriarch Ruby recanting her opera career – all while listening to an "interesting" vocal performance – was absolutely side-splitting … in a "this woman is bonkers" kind of way. This show haunted my lovely companion and me for days afterwards. Can't think of a better compliment than that.
So let's cut right into the heart of this creepy and multi-layered show full of curfews and electrified fences that make you wonder how safe is "safe." There is a reason the family remains trapped in this cellar and are afraid of what's lurking outside. The initial question of time and place wracked my brain at first. Are we post-apocalypse? Interred in some f**ked up asylum? In hell? Then one possibility godsmacked me right upside the head. *Spoiler alert! Plug your ears and say lalalalalalala for a few minutes if you don't want to know. Okay. Ready? Still a few seconds left before I type
it. Lalalalalala…. Purgatory! Here's what I think: ultimately this is a battle for Sigfried's soul with Grand Fa playing the super-charged super id telling Sigfried to go outside, break free, and embrace the light, and Ruby playing the super duper superego keeping the poor guy trapped there for all of eternity. Everything is just fine and dandy and disturbing in the cellar until Clarence shows up as the evening's new "friend," reminding Sigfried of his past and trying to jog his memory about his death. There was a reason Sigfried stopped going to school after the sixth grade, a reason they
keep bringing it up (nice foreshadowing). Lots of TV shows, novels, and films depict the sudden loss of memory the dead experience when in a purgatorial limbo state. They tend to not remember how they got there or that they are indeed dead, let alone how they got that way. Many references are made to this elusive access to information about what "came before" the cellar. My friend made another argument that could be made in favor of the insane asylum motif, with the majority of Ruby's speeches veering to the insane side of polite conversation and Grand Fa being "moved" to a home (a different ward?) and the nice fact that the lights keep dimming due to animals hitting the "electric fence" (or is it the electroshock therapy taking place elsewhere in the facility?) Is Fa actually sleeping, or is that a drug-induced state? Prison? Standing in a long line at the grocery store? What? Playwright McNally doesn't offer a concrete explanation, which may drive
some viewers batty and still others to draw their own solid conclusions. Either way is a win, because this show is so well executed (so to speak).
Sarah MacMillan, as dramatic, retired opera diva Ruby, is appropriately menacing, maniacal, and manipulative. She made the hairs on my arms stand up. She nailed a range of unpredictable behavior, although I would like to have seen her more hysterical at the very end. Brandon Palmer as the tortured Sigfried commands the stage and drives the plot with confused energy. Rebecca Morphis, in her Denver debut as Lakme, is impressive playing a character younger than herself, hitting the highs and lows of teenage girlhood very well. Clarence, played by Zak Wziontka, exudes physical and emotional strength onstage, and Patrick Brownson as Fa may appear to be sleeping almost the entire show, but that takes extraordinary control to accomplish as an actor – need to sneeze? Oh, well! Got an itch? Too bad! The other stellar performance was Gary Webster as Grand Fa. Initially looking like nothing more than a stock grumpy old feeble man, Webster offers us a glimpse of his character's inner strength, a strength that builds all the way to the climactic battle for Sigfried. It was hard not to root for Grand Fa!