BWW Reviews: Grain of Sand Theatre Presents TELL-TALE at Capital Fringe
Tell-Tale, Hunter Styles' modern adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's mid-19th century short story, is likely one of the more polished and innovatively presented dramas one is likely to see in this year's Capital Fringe Festival. Styles proves adept at infusing elements of the well-known tale while ultimately making the mysterious story - in this case as a reconstruction of events from multiple perspectives - one that allows the audience to likewise ponder broader ideas of human connection, destiny, mortality, and reality vs. fantasy. As presented by the emerging, ambitious theatre company Grain of Sand under the superb direction of founding member Carl Brandt Long, it's also an exercise on how to use a variety of theatrical devices, minimal sets, and a uniformly talented cast to the utmost advantage.
Logan (Matthew Ward) has just experienced a rather horrific car crash. Under the care of Dr. Parker (John Stange), he miraculously recovers quickly leaving his investigative journalist wife Charlie (Amal Saade) more than a little suspicious as to how that could have happened. Is it a miracle or something more? Logan, likewise, is curious about his recovery himself and a bit disturbed by a mysterious girl he sees. How exactly could his recovery be tied to this young woman (Hannah, played by Grain of Sand Managing Director Sara Bickler)? With a little help from the professionals (a therapist and police woman played by Pamela H. Leahigh), Charlie seeks out the truth just as Logan explores his odd connection with Hannah. A single situation, interpreted through a variety of lenses, offers deep insights on what really happened and what it all means.
Carl Brandt Long's direction allows for each dimension of the powerful yet ambiguous story to be explored to the fullest. Although there are some pacing issues in the latter half of the play - particularly as all of the elements come together and perhaps a bit too many heavy-handed monologues are delivered to convey each character's thoughts - the scene transitions are virtually seamless. He makes effective use of a variety of theatrical devices (keeping the actors visible at all times, minimal yet utilitarian sets, simple flashlights to shed 'light' on a situation, the sounds of hearts beating to transition from one scene/viewpoint to another, among several others) that don't come off as too gimmicky, but rather integral to presenting the fractured story.
Under his direction, the entire cast delivers superb performances. Ward is charming and relatable as the bewildered Logan who is desperate to figure out what's happening to him. Saade excels with numerous monologues and her acting never veers into 'camp' territory as Charlie desperately searches for answers as to what happened to her husband, but instead is exceedingly natural and grounded. Bickler gives a heartbreaking yet understated performance as Hannah, while Stange is delightfully yet suitably intense and creepy as Dr. Parker. Leahigh, rounding out the cast, proves her versatility in taking on several characters and making the most of her stage time.
One has to give kudos to Grain of Sand for making all of the pieces fit into place in presenting this tale. I look forward to what it (and playwright Hunter Styles) does next.
Running Time: Approximately 75 minutes.
Tell-Tale has one more performance in this year's Capital Fringe Festival. For tickets and show information, visit the Fringe website.