By Martin McDonagh
Directed by Kevin G. Becker
Hubris Theatre Company
Lowndes Shakespeare Center, Orlando, FL
Totalitarianism isn’t for the squeamish. Katurian (Josh Geoghagen) writes creepy children’s stories and get hauled in for a thorough beating by good cop Tupolski (Tommy Keeling) and bad cop Ariel (Stephen Lima). The charge is unclear, and while his macabre stories might hold some subtle political message this arrest appears as a standard “Shake Down the Intellectual Troublemakers” exercise. Katurian’s retarded brother Michal (John Bateman) is in the next cell, and when it looks like Michal might get even worse treatment, Katurian stand up for his rights and get the crap hammered out of him. Thrown in the same cell, they revisit their past and we discover the terrible reason they are both in the jail house.
In this violent and deeply disturbing drama, no one is really innocent, but everyone acts to within an inch of their live. Stephen Lima intimidates the audience as well as Katurian with an angry edge that never wavered. Tommy Keeling, who mostly plays nice guys on stage, became nearly as frightening, although his brand of torture tended to the intellectual. Mr. Geoghagen seemed almost too nice to be in trouble, but as Katurian he seemed to sense trouble and did his best to talk his way out. Most impressive, however, was John Bateman’s portray of weak minded Michal. He captured the innocence and misplaced humor of his character, and the chemistry between the two brothers almost made up for the horror of the Ariel/Tupolski method of interrogation.
The extravagantly expressionistic set by Tommy Mangieri recalls the nightmarish claustrophobia of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”. While the violence on stage made half the already meager audience flee at intermission, those who remained saw the story step back from physical abuse to emphasize the high stakes mind games brought on by life times of hiding the truth from oneself. Hubris Theatre opens with a strong, gripping drama, and I look for this company to give Empty Spaces some serious artistic competition. Bring a strong stomach and a closed mind, you’ll need them.
Please visit http://www.myspace.com/hubristheatrecompanyfor more information on Hubris Theatre