BWW Review: OUT LOUD Theatre's Haunting ESCAPE

BWW Review: OUT LOUD Theatre's Haunting ESCAPEESCAPE, the second installment of OUT LOUD Theatre's sixth season, is a thoroughly original, thoroughly engrossing movement piece that brings the audience along on the varied journey of emotions surrounding the loss of a loved one. Have Kleenex at the ready.

"Movement piece" is truly the best way to describe this world premiere, conceived and directed by Kira Hawkridge; there is no talking, no utterances other than the visceral screams, cries, and occasional laughs, but this well-tuned ensemble doesn't need words to convey the nuances of this performance.

Escape begins at what appears to be a wake - in the middle of a large, black box taking up the middle of the room, lies the Twin Brother (Justin Fortin), in his funeral finery. At one end of the space, outside of the box, sit three women in a row of chairs, the Twin Sister (Natasha Cole), the Mother (Patricia Hawkridge), and the Partner (Erika Rethorn), all in black. One by one, the women enter the box, either the inner space, or the outer edges, and take their turns interacting with both the brother and each other. Sitting at the other end of the space is the Therapist (Siobhan LaPorte-Cauley), who just observes these interactions at first, before becoming more actively involved as she helps everyone navigate, and come to terms with, their own emotional processes. Through movement and posture, and interactions with the set itself, these five cast members explore the full range of emotions that grief can elicit, from the weight of unbearable sadness to unbridled anger to the joy of remembering what was.

The show is accompanied by original music by Stephen DeCataldo. His compositions help enhance, highlight, and punctuate the action on-stage. The staging (designed by stage manager Marc Tiberiis II) and use of lighting is also very effective. The focus is on a large black box in the center of the room, the inner space liberally populated with small white balls like one might find in a child's ball pit, which are used for varying effects and emphasis throughout, the outer edge large enough for the actors to move around on. This set up is simple, but appropriate, for keeping the focus on what's occurring inside and around the structure.

The five ensemble members are to be commended for conjuring up such intense emotions for each performance. This is not an easy show to sit through for those who have recently, or not so recently, experienced a personal loss, so it's incredible how the performers are willing and able to go to that raw space time after time. The ensemble members are given credit for "devising" the show, and as the artistic director's note states, "it was important for us as a collaborative ensemble to give this piece room to breathe, grow, and evolve authentically and organically." This approach has clearly paid off in this beautiful and challenging show.

Escape runs through June 13th at 134 Mathewson Street in Providence, Rhode Island. Tickets are $20 and can be bought through https://www.outloudtheatre.org/ or at the door. Performances begin at 8:00pm. The final installment of OUT LOUD Theatre's sixth season, Dream, begins June 15th. More information can be found at the website above.

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From This Author Erica Cataldi-Roberts

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