Saturday, May 7, 2011

DARK MATTERS • Stray Dog Theatre

How far can "willing suspension of disbelief" take you?  Well, if you see Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's DARK MATTERS at Stray Dog (directed by Justin Been), trust me.  You will find out.

In the mountains of rural Virginia, where the Clearys moved about six months earlier from Washington D.C., Mom has gone missing.  Bridget Cleary (Sarah Cannon) hasn't returned home after going to get groceries, and her husband Michael (David Wassilak) and son Jeremy (Tyler Whiteman) are starting to freak out a little.  Bridget, a writer and amateur astronomer, has been known to wander off into the night to stargaze, but never before it gets dark, and now it's been a couple of days.  The local Sheriff (John Reidy) seems eager to help, and informs Michael that his wife has been seen, but the news of where she's been seen introduces another set of possibilities and questions for her husband.  Okay, I'll just tell you -- she's been seen at this local dive bar, and according to someone who works there, she's also been seen walking off with truckers into the parking lot, or to nearby motels.  There are some family details concerning Dad that also come to the surface after the Sheriff does a little poking around for clues, but they don't do much as far as advancing the story, and just seem to confuse the plot.

David Wassilak (Michael Cleary),
Tyler Whiteman (Jeremy Cleary),
and Sarah Cannon (Bridget Cleary).
Photo by John Lamb
Near the end of the first act, Bridget returns, and her explanation of where she's been and what she's learned stretch credibility for her family.  It honestly stretched credibility for me, too.  She recounts stories of a long-standing relationship with beings from another universe, and this dive bar has been their meeting place of choice.  So, is Bridget hooking up with random truckers, or extraterrestrials?  Is Bridget really who she seems to be at all?  It's some major "Twilight Zone" stuff going on here folks.

We also find out that these little green men have some major plans for her son that involve populating another planet in some other galaxy…  I know right?!  Let's just say that just when you think things can't get any more incredible, they do.  

Sarah Cannon as Bridget Cleary was a stand-out in this bizarre play once she appears near the end of the first act.  Tyler Whiteman does a nice job as Jeremy, introducing some of the scenes with little monologues.  David Wassilak's Michael Cleary was sufficiently hard to read and "just under the surface" menacing, and John Reidy does a great job as Sheriff Benjamin Egan.

The space at Stray Dog was perfect for this, and Justin Been's sound design pretty effectively conveys that "X-Files" type feel along with Tyler Duenow's dim and creepy lighting.  Justin Been's set was very nice too with an alternating sunlit or moonlit window at the back of the stage.  The pacing in the first act is a little slow, but once it picks up in the second act, things get more interesting.  Things don't really make any more sense mind you, but they do get more interesting.  It's not a play where you walk away with any answers really.  Just lots and lots of questions.  


Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Directed by Justin Been
Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Ave.
through May 21 | tickets: $18 - $20
Performances Thursday to Saturday at 8pm

Sarah Cannon (Bridget Cleary), John Reidy (Benjamin Egan), David Wassilak (Michael Cleary) and Tyler Whiteman (Jeremy Cleary).

Costume design by Gary F. Bell; scenic design by Justin Been; lighting design by Tyler Duenow; sound design by Justin Been; stage manager, Kevin Boehm.

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