BWW Review: HOUSE Walks Through the Pain of One Man's Experience
Now playing at Hyde Park Theatre, HOUSE written by modern playwright Daniel MacIvor, stars Austin's own artistic titan Ken Webster as the volatile and witty main man, Victor. HOUSE is a one-man show, running 65 minutes and is a pressure cooker for any performer. However, this production of HOUSE is a 1998 revival of Hyde Park Theatre's original production, also starring Ken Webster in what must have been a humbling experience, due to the roller coaster of emotions the protagonist of this story endures each night. From the top, he is grappling with apparent signs of paranoid schizophrenia as he delivers a long soliloquy about his past, present and future. Consistently returning to a therapy group with fellow struggling individuals, his stories of life jump from timeline to timeline, sketching more of the overall picture that has Victor so angrily and mentally destroyed. Between tales of his kinky wife and manic episodes - including one lively event at a grocery store, Victor represents the average person's fits of rage, passion and sporadic cheer. Dragging the audience through his fantasies of envy, antagonism and sometimes hope, Victor is a character in life people would most likely avoid but can't help but find fascinating. A car crash you won't look away from as you feel lucky that you were not collateral damage in the head-on collision.
Throughout his absurd tales, there are glimpses of reality, smartly mapped by specific lighting and stage direction. Matching the lighting and stage direction to what is assumed to be spots within Victor's mind, the lighting design by Don Day changes the mood in the house as quickly as Webster switches Victor's consciousness. With a bare stage, a single chair and a handful of props, the weight of the storytelling rests on Webster's shoulders. Slight tonal changes and styles of speaking introduce different emotions, hinting at the varying levels of truth from Victor. Webster manages to paint the imagery of Victor's stories in both a heartbreaking and comical way, depending on the weighted impact the subject matter has on him. Committing to the bit, a highlight in the show was Webster's quick exit of the theatre, trampling the perimeter of Hyde Park Theatre shouting desperately for his long lost love.
The poetry written by MacIvor is quite beautiful. In the more eccentric parts of Victor, hope lives between the pain. Utilizing each scholarly writing tool available, the themes, tropes and symbolism presented makes the performance from Webster feel like the staging of a novel at times. Ending the show with a charmingly written dance of words, the fate of our antihero is up for debate. No spoilers here, but it should be said, audiences are still guessing at their own poetic interpretations. A show for literary fans and theatre goers alike, HOUSE is sure to tease the mind and slap you in the face on your ride home, as you ponder the the truth presented somewhere between the pages and performance.
By Daniel MacIvor
February 27th - March 28th, 2020
Call 512-479-PLAY for reservations