BWW Reviews: SANS MERCI: In Thrall

Sans Merci is a powerful play by Johnna Adams, which is currently being presented by Flux Theatre Ensemble, in rep with Honey Fist, which I will be reviewing later this week. It concerns a woman who comes to confront her dead daughter's lesbian lover. Elizabeth (Susan Ferrara) has come from Chicago and shown up unannounced on the Los Angeles doorstep of Kelly (Rachel Hip-Flores), seeking answers about what happened to her daughter Tracy three years ago, when she was attacked and died in a remote village in Columbia.

What follows is a searing two hours as the women argue politics and life, and eventually get down to the true meat of the story of the young woman who was in both their lives. There are also several flashbacks to Kelly's life three years previously in college with Tracy (Alisha Spielmann), which go far in explaining the gaps in what Kelly doesn't want to share with Elizabeth.

As one might expect from the title, Keats' poem La Belle Dame Sans Merci figures into the script, often in unexpected ways.

The term "well-made play" is considered derogatory, which is a shame because Adams' script is so excellently and meticulously crafted that it would be convenient to call it well-made.

Which is not to say that the production is mechanical in any way; the three actresses are consummate performers and each gets several moments to shine. They all deliver performances that are brave and emotionally raw. Heather Cohn's direction is nearly flawless, letting the lighter more humorous moments shine through to illuminate the darkness.

The technical elements are startlingly detailed, from Janie Bullard's Sound Design, Will Lowry's detailed Costume Designs,

Charles Murdoch's impressionistic yet livable set, Kia Rogers Lighting Design, and Sarah Slagle's Prop Design, all are at the top of their game.

The play does feature a lot of violence against women and nudity, and that might be triggering for those who are sensitive to that.

Sans Merci is a great play that will leave you shaken and thinking about it for weeks to come.

SANS MERCI will be presented by Flux Theatre Ensemble at the 4th Street Theatre (83 East 4th Street between 2nd Avenue and Bowery) April 26-May 17; 4/26, 4/28, 4/29, 5/3, 5/5 5/7, 5/8, 5/11, 5/16, & 5/17 at 7:30pm and 4/27, 5/4, & 5/12 at 2:30pm. Tickets ($18; $15 students) may be purchased online at or by calling 866-811-4111.

Tickets to see performances of both Sans Merci and Honey Fist are $30 (with no service charge).

Photo: Rachael Hip-Flores & Susan Ferrara Photo credit Titus Winters

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