Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Hell Meets Henry Halfway
Also see Susan's review of The Winter's Tale
The six-member company and director Dan Rothenberg are working with a script by Adriano Shaplin, adapted from the novel "Possessed" by Polish novelist Witold Gombrowicz, a renowned figure in Europe but little known in the U.S. The production is determinedly surrealistic, sometimes genuinely funny, often dark, but always unique.
Matt Saunders' expressionistic scenic design gives the audience a taste of the experience to come: grim, old-fashioned office furniture; on the floor, the incongruous layout of a tennis court; in the background, a structure whose double doors open to reveal a succession of locales. Sarah Sidman's lighting design adds to the feeling of disorientation, while Miranda Hoffman's costumes range from formal suits and evening gowns to seedy tennis outfits.
In a remote castle somewhere in eastern Europe, Henry Kholavitski (Dito van Reigersberg) is secretary and caregiver to a sickly, decrepit prince (Bel Garcia). As Henry lingers in his isolation and waits for the prince to die, he is forced to deal with an icy fiancée (Sarah Sanford); a loutish tennis pro who has seen better days (Gabriel Quinn Bauriedel early in the run, James O. Dunn later); a supposed doctor with a distinct lack of personal hygiene and a suggestion of Peter Lorre in his vocal quality (Steve Cuiffo); and a character called Jon the Ballboy (James Sugg, who also created the musical score with Shaplin).
The performers form an ensemble whose members all speak the same language, even when it's unclear exactly what they're saying. They rail at God, fate and each other; accuse the others of vague betrayals and an inability to connect; and tend toward violent emotions, swerving wildly from rage, to desire, to hopelessness.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company