BWW Reviews: Elevator Repair Service's THE SOUND AND THE FURY is of Questionable Significance
Few theatre companies are so known for taking things literally as artistic director John Collins' Elevator Repair Service. The troupe best known for eschewing playwrights and creating theatre pieces like a staged reading of F. Scott Fitzgerald's entire text of The Great Gatsby and the complete transcripts of a U.S. Supreme Court case regarding the First Amendment rights of exotic dancers, now encore their 2008 Off-Broadway production taken from William Faulkner's 1929 novel, The Sound and The Fury.
Falkner's original, told in four parts through four different viewpoints, tells of the social and economic decline of the once-aristocratic Compson family of Jefferson, Mississippi. The title is taken from Shakespeare's line in Macbeth regarding "a tale told by an idiot," and ERS's presentation, directed by Collins, takes its text from the first part, told by a character who, in less-sympathetic times, would be referred to as an idiot.
Benjy, the fourth child of Jason Compson III and his wife, Caroline, suffers from an unspecified mental disability and Faulkner's telling of his memories from the past thirty years is told with non-linear stream of consciousness. It's generally regarded as confusing to read and Collins theatricalizes that confusion by having his ensemble of twelve actors sharing roles, sometimes crossing over gender and racial lines. Even Benjy is doubled, played primarily by the mostly silent Susie Sokol (wearing what looks like a Beatles mop-top wig), but also spoken by Aaron Landsman.
Program notes provide more details as to who is playing who during what time period and also display a family tree, but that isn't much help during the intermissionless two and a quarter hour performance. Since Faulkner's words are unedited, the actors say, "he said," "she said," "father said," etc. as they quote the characters they're playing, which helps a bit.
Snippets from the novel and character descriptions are projected onto a back wall, but they're not always legible. David Zinn's set includes an eclectic mix of furniture not connected to any one period and Colleen Werthmann's costumes are contemporary.
Though the efforts involved are admirable and professional, what is accomplished by presenting Faulkner's words in this manner is unclear. It would be harsh (and cheap) to say that Elevator Repair Service's The Sound and The Fury signifies nothing, but the concept of the piece proves more interesting than watching an evening of its execution.