BWW Review: Containers of the Mind- East Coast Premiere of BOXES
The Good Theater's production of Jule Selbo's BOXES offers a taut psychological study of manipulation and longing, misconceptions about self and love, all carefully crafted into a thriller with rapid twists and turns that compels the audience's attention for its brisk ninety-minutes. The boxes of the title are literal props used in a clinical psychological research study, but they are really metaphors for the constraints that shape our views of selfhood and for the inscrutable containers of dark secrets.
Directed by Steven Underwood, who also supplies the eloquent set and sound designs, Selbo's drama focuses on a young medical student in need of validation, who becomes the unwitting subject of two doctors' rather jaded research hypotheses about human nature and love. Underwood moves the drama with precision to its dramatic climax in which the progression of startling surprises happens with such lightning speed as to leave the audience breathless. His clinically white unit set, which serves for three locales, has the modernist look of modular boxes, each somewhat off-balance or askew, much as the characters themselves and their emotions are. And he handles the intricate sound design which uses segues from the Sigourney's speaking voice to her recorded observations seamlessly. Lighting designer Iain Odlin, costume designer Justin Cote, technical director Craig Robinson, and stage manager Meg Lydon complete the expert creative team.
The five-person cast gives strong performances. Hannah Daly as Sigourney, the young woman at the center of the research experiment is affecting, vulnerable, and believably naïve. As her concerned boyfriend, Marv, Thomas Ian Campbell makes the most of arguably the most sympathetic character in the play - confused, angry, hurt, but persistent in his caring for Sigourney. Ashanti Williams and Sally Wood make a believable pair of obsessive researchers, focused on proving their hypotheses at any cost, while Dalton Kimball as Clifford alternates between two identities - the gaming university student and a "police officer" - with aplomb, making these cameo appearances central to the ultimate plot revelation.
Once again Executive/Artistic Director Brian P. Allen is to be commended for showcasing a relatively new work for Maine audiences. BOXES is a cat and mouse thriller that keeps the audience guessing throughout and rewards with a climactic payback. Moreover, it is a play which explores human frailty in the face of self-doubt and desperate yearning for affection. The final moments do not completely chart the course of Sigourney and Marv's future relationship, but they do speak with bold clarity about psychological dangers surmounted and wisdom- however painful - gained.
Photo courtesy Good Theater, Steven Underwood , photographer
BOXES plays at the Good Theater, 76 Congress SR., Portland ME from November 6 - December 1, 2019 www.goodtheater.com 207- 835-0895