BWW Reviews: THE DESTRUCTION OF KRESHEV, Etcetera Theatre, August 19 2013
Satan, a two-headed devil, tells of how he destroyed a town merely through the promotion of love. His instuments are an ordinary, if lively, girl and a scholarly but otherwise unremarkable young man whose arranged marriage soon creates a scandal, as they experiment with barely concealed bondage games and take lovers, outraging the religious townsfolk. When a plague of locusts descends to wipe out the harvest, a scapegoat is needed to explain such misfortune. In an echo of The Wicker Man, the couple are driven to their deaths, provoking their rakish third in their menage-a-trois to set a fire that destroys the town. Satan looks on, amused at the mayhem.
Sacred & Profane's The Destruction of Kreshev (at Etcetera Theatre until 23 August) retells Isaac Bashevis Singer's story with sound, movement and music. Director David Zoob's ambition in using three media to supplement the drama is rewarded with two wonderful performances from David Hewson, whose klezmer playing takes on an ever more eerie quality as the town nears its destruction and Lydia Baksh, who is as light and sexy as the libertine wife as she is heavy and judgmental as her mother.The two actor-performers carry the whole show over its 60 minutes, playing all the parts, as well as a preying mantis of a devil.
If that sounds a bit grim for late Summer in London, well, it is - although there are plenty of very dark smirks raised by Singer's skewering of hypocrisy. But the tragedy of the town's fate is offset by the sheer craft of the actors and the touching devotion of the lovers to each other, as Satan whispers ever more insistently in their ears. Ultimately, it was not Satan, not the lovers' excesses of lust, nor even the locusts that destroyed Kreshev - it was one young man whose lover had been murdered by those too self-righteous to accept that morality may vary from one person to another and that people's sex lives are their own concern. The lovers made their choices and harmed nobody: the townsfolk made theirs and were left with no town. In an age where Twitter brings down the judgement of millions on transgressors, that's worth bearing in mind.