BWW Review: Into the Twists and Turns of SET's LONESOME HOLLOW
If you've ever walked a Chartres labyrinth, you know they can be deceptive. Your path skirts the center, but you've barely started; it looks like you're on the way out when you're really heading further in. Which makes a labyrinth a fitting metaphor for both the play Lonesome Hollow and its eponymous town: twisting, deceptive, and with monsters lurking around the corner.
Tuck (Taylor Geiman), the builder of the labyrinth, is a resident-inmate, rather-of Lonesome Hollow, an abandoned town converted into an internment camp for sexual offenders. He was convicted of statutory with a sixteen-year-old girl, and his photography is now considered pornographic by the police state that's imprisoned him. He longs for freedom, but nobody has ever left the town, though plenty have "gone missing" (the frequent gunshots heard in the distance give a possible explanation for that circumstance). But hope comes in the form of Mills (Rachel Baker), a sympathetic guard who is fascinated by Tuck's creative endeavors. Like Winston Smith and Julia, Tuck and Mills' main crime and downfall is daring to love one another.
Lonesome Hollow is a dystopia, and Lee Blessing's writing is very typical of the genre: dodgy euphemisms, corrupt authority, and thought-provoking if occasionally heavy-handed social commentary. Like most of the genre it takes a social tendency and expands it to a terrifying extreme: in this case, the desire to protect ourselves, and the tendency to justify what we do in that name by dehumanizing those we deem a threat. Once we have reduced a person to a "criminal," a "terrorist," a "monster," well then, do they deserve whatever's coming to them? The SET's set reflects the inherent bleakness in Blessing's play, with a crude wood-and-stone labyrinth set up amid a forest of dead trees and grasping roots.
The twisting path of the labyrinth, Tuck explains, forces us to examine things from multiple angles, and the script likewise confronts us with multiple sides of the truth it presents. This is most prevalent in the case of Nye (Emory John Collinson), an inmate who the staff attempts to keep in line through a series of punitive measures and chemical inhibitors. A career pedophile without the slightest trace of regret, much less reformation, Nye nonetheless makes you feel for him, especially when Collinson contorts his body under the effects of the treatments he suffers. He gives one of the two most compelling performances in the Springs Ensemble production, the other belonging to Steve Emily's Glover, a therapist whose false geniality masks a horrifying picture of self-righteous sadism. Emily commands the play's climax, which hits hard then goes on a bit too long as it twists the knife a little deeper than necessary. But there's no doubt that it stays with you, giving you something to reflect on as you reach the center of the labyrinth.
LONESOME HOLLOW plays at the Springs Ensemble Theatre now through November 1st, Thursdays through Fridays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 4pm. The production contains violence, adult language, and nudity. For tickets, contact the box office at 719-357-3080 or visit springsensembletheatre.org.