Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Vigils
Crave was written in 1998 by Sarah Kane, an Englishwoman who gained critical attention and notoriety before committing suicide the next year at the age of 28. The play lacks a narrative structure as it brings together four unnamed people in their moments of isolation and connection, but the interplay of voices suggests a musical format: a fugue, perhaps, as one person picks up another's words and takes them in a different direction. Continuing the musical metaphor, director Jeremy Skidmore serves as the conductor, keeping each vocal line unique and understandable while it plays against the others.
The ARK, the 99-seat house at the new Signature, is set up in the round for this production, with the performers posed on the walls in alcoves behind each seating area as the audience enters. The primary component of Tony Cisek's set is a large box filled with sparkling sand; the lighting, as designed by Dan Covey, occasionally shines up from the bottom of the box, providing unexpected and surprising perspectives.
Kane doesn't make clear if the characters have specific through lines, or even if each actor plays only one role throughout the performance. The performers speak in short, broken sentences, reaching out blindly through phrases that seek resolution from another person.
These characters want to find completeness in themselves and with each other, but despair of that ever happening. The themes recur and overlap: one woman wants to become pregnant but does not have an obliging partner; another woman confuses rape and emotional abuse with love and belonging; a younger man seeks an older partner to mother him as much as to love him; an older man looks back on his life with desperation. They're all on the brink of something, as when they stand on the edges of the sandbox and look away.
The four-member cast Kathleen Coons, Deborah Hazlett, Joe Isenberg, and John Lescault is appropriately impassioned, by turns furious, resigned, and wryly humorous. The only problem they have is when they use British terms unfamiliar in American English: for example, referring to a lay-by on a motorway, which Americans would call a pull-off area on a freeway.