Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

In a Forest, Dark and Deep
none too fragile

Sean Derry and Leighann Niles DeLorenzo
It was a dark and stormy night. A commotion at the door. Frightened, Betty moves to the door. Finally, she pulls the door open and Bobby rushes into the cabin to escape the rain and thunder. No need to fear, Bobby is Betty's brother. Or should Betty be afraid?

In a Forest, Dark and Deep is playing in the small none too fragile theater in Akron, Ohio. Thus far, the show has been playing to capacity audiences. The company is described as a "kick-ass theatre for Akron." They bring new scripts to their playing area and audiences. Most of these scripts have not yet been produced in northern Ohio.

Neil LaBute's play explores Betty and Bobby's relationship. They are brother and sister and fight more than one would expect of adult siblings. Bobby describes Betty as something of a "free love" advocate through high school and college. Yet, she's earned the appropriate academic degrees and now is a dean at a local university. Bobby seems not to have had much success in his work life. He is twice divorced and has relationship problems no easier than his sister's.

They meet at a cabin in a dark and deep forest. They must clean the cabin, pack the books, and prepare to completely vacate the cabin though Betty owns it.

The action is simple. Betty rented the cabin to a tenant who no longer is there. She needs to pack his books, which are strewn across the playing area. She insists the cabin must be readied for the next tenant. This is where things get dicey.

In a Forest, Dark and Deep runs about 100 minutes. The two characters battle about truth, one of LaBute's frequent subjects. "Truth hurts" is a phrase they frequently banter. This phrase came into their lives from their father. As they play unfolds, they reveal more and more about each other and how painfully truth hurts each of them.

Basically, Bobby attacks Betty and she doesn't defend herself well. Bobby insists he has a moral code by which he lives his life. Betty, of course, questions his moral code because he is twice divorced and has had several scrapes with the law. He talks a great deal about sin. She questions him about sin and what is truth and suggests he has a filter for truth.

She tells him that a student on campus called out "gray jello" as she walked by. She realizes she is getting old and can no longer attract younger men. She is frightened at the prospect of being on a university campus, surrounded by handsome young men who have no sexual interest in her.

Yes, it was a dark and stormy night In a Forest, Dark and Deep and many strange and frightening things happen. However, the performance is long enough that I was not fearful for the characters, only for my numbness in the hard seat and fearful the script was much too long. The show either needs an intermission or an editor's pencil to cut about 30 to 40 minutes.

The two performers are superior. They work hard for 100 minutes of fighting and battling for truth to be revealed. However, they are swimming upstream in a script that is not ready for the stage.

The ntf company in its various forms has offered other plays by Neil LaBute: Fat Pig, This is how it Goes, and In a Dark Dark Home.

In a Forest, Dark and Deep, running through September 19, 2015, at none too fragile theater, 1835 Merriman Road, Akron, Ohio (enter through Pub Bricco). For information and tickets, visit

Bobby: Sean Derry
Betty: Leighann Niles DeLorenzo
Director: Andrew Narten
Stage Manager: Brian Kenneth Armour
Set Design: Sean Derry
Costume Design: Frank Communale

Photo: Brian Kenneth Armour

- David Ritchey

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