BWW Review: ABOMINABLE Explores the Beast Lurking Within and Beyond
Something is out there leaving footprints. Is it, as an old wives tales poses, a beast not full of humanity but of something else?
Teenagers Sam, Jacob and Esther are fascinated, but these adolescents are already consumed by coping with the challenges of rapid changes and shifting alliances. Sam's bones are growing so fast that sometimes he feels positively inhuman.
Hub Artistic Director Helen Pafumi crafts a powerful script exploring unknown beasts lurking within and abroad. She states, "Growing is kind of a treacherous thing all on its own. Bone, skin, everything stretching upward. And to undergo this epic task while the world around you is full of things that pose threat? Utterly mind boggling."
Abominable expertly tests the line between humanity and inhumanity in a mystical production merging expert storytelling, compelling characters and an effectively streamlined aesthetic.
The cast, under the direction of Helen Hayes Award nominee Kirsten Kelly, is a true ensemble that strengthens and supports each other's work even as their characters question who and what they can trust.
Carla Briscoe as Prima, who opens and closes the show with tales of knowledge shared by her canny abuela, meets our eyes and envelopes us in Prima's earthy enchantment and humor. With her power and appeal, she makes it clear that something important is unfolding.
At one moment gulping a bowl of cereal or outgrowing sneakers and the next figuring out the mysteries of a glance or a kiss, Chr's Sam is a jumble of bewildering confusion, uncontained hormones, and heart-melting innocence that propels the show. With Maggie Erwin (Esther) and William Vaughan (Jacob) the evolving relationship among the teens rings true. These are complicated and riveting figures, expertly portrayed.
Sam's mother, Gia (Liz Osborn) brings great humor to the role but breaks our heart with a simple "please" or the gift of an unexpected hug. Ulysses (Sasha Olinick), as an adult and an officer of the law, seemingly grounds the situation in authority, but his comedic moments and charming interplay (particularly with Prima) deliver needed notes of light and life to the work.
The intimate space of the black box theater adds to the story as we are literally encircled by the story unfolding around us. The starkly beautiful scenic design by Kristen Morgan - a grove of bare trees like pale, bleached bones - is simple, functional and uncluttered. Working effectively in tandem with Elizabeth Coco's evocative lighting and Matthew M. Nielson's compositions and sound we have a great sense of place in each scene as the production elements quietly help the story unfold.
Abominable delves deeply into what is hidden on the inside versus what is visible on the outside. What is needed? What is safe? What is seen? What is missed?
What is not to be missed is Abominable, a masterful world premiere at The Hub Theater; a poignant tale of fear, connection and humanity told with humor and compassion.
Runtime: 90 minutes with no intermission. Abominable plays through August 3, 2014 at the HUB Theatre - 9431 Silver King Court, Fairfax, Virginia 22031. For tickets, visit the HUB Theatre's website here.
Photo Credit: Teresa Castracane