BWW Review: MOTH at TheatreLAB: A Taut Teenage Nightmare
Declan Greene's MOTH is an "in-yer-face" allegory that covers the sullen travails of two hopeless teenagers who just can't seem to find an adequate niche in school or, indeed, within the limits of their own lives.
It's a story that has been told countless times before from the likes of, say, Fyodor Dostoyevsky to JD Salinger to even that of John Hughes: the young adult's quest for answers and contentment among a myriad of external perils and explosive internal conundrums.
MOTH, a play of Australian extraction that first premiered in 2012, shrouds the two sole actors in a more-contemporary (and bleak) setting: they drink, they relentlessly swear, they engage in violent sparing matches, and they even self-mutilate.
These dangerous tendencies go unchecked to the point where one character, fueled by delusions of apocalyptic grandeur with religious overtones, starts to take things way too far... to the point where the safety of others inevitably falls into uncertainty.
Given the play's context, I'm curious to know if, given the publicly-sensitive regard to violence in schools that we're seeing today, whether the timeliness of this production occurred through happenstance or by the resolve of the artistic team to mount a dramatic think piece in correlation to the vocal defiance that still permeates the cultural consciousness.
No matter the case, the play itself has no social or political agenda; it only shows us two misanthropic youths experiencing one crisis after another.
These struggles are felt by Claryssa (Kelsey Cordrey), a bitter and Gothically-inclined "emo" whose only emotional respite is in the form of Sebastian (John Mincks), an outcast whose mood swings range from juvenile goofiness to that of writhing anguish.
The two leads, despite being somewhat older than their textual counterparts, look, sound, and feel spot-on in their roles. Moreover, they never look particularly winded despite the energy expenditure that director Josh Chernard has necessitated from the characters' brisk blocking and a daunting execution of their varied, sometimes off-the-wall mannerisms.
Production devices of note include a black and foreboding set by Chris Raintree, which was (literally) highlighted by LED strands by Michael Jarett (with the assistance of Ben Zasimowich). Their lighting apparatus also featured the installation of laser lights and strobes, all of which were under the deft control of the ever-reliable stage management of Breezy Potter as well as assistance from Connor Scudder.
Lastly, in getting at the "elephant in the room": is this play appropriate for high schoolers? I cannot say emphatically. I think it depends on the maturity of the individual, like so many situations.
Now, could this piece, perhaps, serve as a cautionary tale, a la Arnold Shapiro's Scared Straight with a mix of Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko ("Midlothian Represent!")? Possibly. But I would nonetheless recommend parental supervision to anyone under 18 planning to see MOTH.
Warning: MOTH features herbal cigarette smoking, fog, and some jarring lighting effects, so playgoers with delicate constitutions should pay heed and plan accordingly.
MOTH plays at TheatreLAB through the 28th of April, 2018.