Friday, August 19, 2011

On the Beach

The inaugural production of Seymoure Theater Company, Joe
Dennison's Muldoon is a gripping meditation on writing and violence.

Set at a Yucatan resort during the Zapatista uprisings in 1996, the play features three American exiles who confront their own violence in the isolation of a dingy hotel. A college professor, King (Stephen Deininger), his graduate assistant, Polly (Megan Rippey), and an alcoholic beachcomber, Pickle (Lynda McClary) are entangled in their own flights from something more than their native land. King is fighting his decline as a writer and his slavery to the bottle; Polly is confronting her diagnosis of terminal cancer; the uproarious Pickle is reeling from the death of her draft-dodging boyfriend (the mysterious Muldoon of the title) who fled to Mexico in the 1960s.

All three actors powerfully evoke the despair and violence-just-beneath-the-surface of their respective characters. McClary seems to be having the time of her life as the outrageous earth mother Pickle. She recites her stream-of-consciousness monologues, her obscure prophecies, and her poetic puns with alternating humor and intimidation. The second act provides the opportunity for several scorching confrontations as the more conventional masks of the characters fall on the shell-strewn beach.

As the action unfolds, the play explores how the growing violence of the characters turns into the narrative of the book King is desperately attempting to write. By the end of the play, it appears that the book (or the long-lost Muldoon) is actually authoring their destructive actions. While such meta-drama provides a challenging frame for the action, it occasionally becomes too didactic, as in the overly chatty ending of the first act.

Chip Chiperson's direction keeps an empathetic focus on the humanity of the characters, who could easily deteriorate into starchy literary theorists or cartoonish thugs. Even in the more academic passages, the pathos never disappears. The spare seaside set (designed by Joe Dennison, Alec Lawson, and Kendra Richard) and the ensemble of seaside sounds (designed by Dave Kiefaber) create a fitting atmosphere for the action. They reinforce the magical realism of the script.

Running this weekend and next at Mobtown Theater, Muldoon provides a challenge to thought and emotion in an exotic setting.

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