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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

A Dark, Haunting Torso from Printer's Devil Theater
at Theatre Off Jackson

Also see David's reviews of Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Songbook, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice and Red

Torso
Sarah Rudinoff and John Q. Smith
Amidst the mainstream musicals and plays dotting the Seattle theatre landscape at present, local playwright Keri Healey's noir thriller Torso sticks out like a sore thumb. Perhaps appropriately a severed one. David Bennett, an admirable local director whose work I know from, yes, musicals and children's theatre, workshopped and developed the play for some time, and the wait was certainly worth it. Healey's play, kind of a Coen brothers screenplay with less mordant humor, is a fever dream of despair, desires and mistakes, and never lets us know for certain what is real and what is imagined. Bennett and his sharp as nails cast bring it to life with conviction and flourish.

Torso fictionalizes the real life story of Healey's sister's death due to the misdiagnosis of an aortic aneurysm, and a murder committed in Minnesota involving an ex-high school friend. The Healey based character Daphne spends a night with Eddie, a cab driver, looking for her misplaced purse. They come to realize they shared a misbegotten blind date, and their relationship evolves as she relates the tale of her old friend Marlo, one of the accused murderers whom she is traveling to see in Minnesota. The tale of Marlo, her brother Dominick, and wife Tina may be what really happened, but at least to me seems to be Daphne's version of it, but either way it's fascinating, dark underbelly stuff, and to say much more would take us into spoiler town.

Bennett directs with a spare, cinematic, action-oriented style which juxtaposes with Healey's words very successfully. Our Daphne is the always amazing Sarah Rudinoff, dazzling in musicals of late, back on dramatic turf and walking the tightrope between bringing out what humor there is in the script to being a near walking wound of a person, unbalanced by the events in her life. Susanna Burney makes Marlo a loser and a schemer, but in the end a rather gutless one, in a brave, unsympathetic performance, while Stephen Hando is fascinating as Dominick, a twitchy but not bad little man who commits violence against his hateful brother when all other recourse seems hopeless. Emily Chisholm doubles to fine effect in the role of Dominick's peaceable but tough at the core wife, and as Daphne's unfortunate deceased sister. John Q. Smith rounds out the excellent ensemble as Eddie, a cab driver we can all relate to.

Jake Nelson's sets achieve wonderful dexterity, creating many locales, simply, effectively, and with little stress placed on the actors who move them. Robert Aguilar's lighting design is totally in sync with the mood of the staging and Sarah Harlett's costumes have a great lived in look about them.

Torso is riveting, must-see theatre that deserves to find an audience, and achieved the rare feat of disturbing my sleep when I went home—ringing if strange endorsement to all involved.

Torso runs through March 31, 2012, at Theatre Off Jackson, 409 Seventh Ave S in the International District. For more information visit www.printersdevil.org.


Photo: Tiffany Diamond



- David Edward Hughes



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