Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The Island of Dr. Moreau
Also see Susan's review of Driving Miss Daisy
Company founding artistic director Paata Tsikurishvili both directs the unrelentingly intense 100-minute production and plays the title role. Dr. Moreau is a brilliant scientist, but he has come to see himself as Godall-powerful and without mercy. Taking the theory of evolution as his inspiration, Moreau implants his subjects with microchips and sometimes uses a staple gun to close incisions. His ultimate goal is to develop hybrid beings that combine human awareness with the superior strength, agility, vision, or other characteristics of the host animals.
Alex Mills, a reliable company member, has a less physically demanding role than usual as Parker, a naturalist shipwrecked on Moreau's island. Dallas Tolentino adds grim comic relief as Moreau's drunken assistant, while Eliza Smith projects a disturbing blend of childish innocence and blood lust as Moreau's daughter.
However, the largely nonverbal performances of the ensemble provide the core of the production. The primary elements of Phil Charlwood's scenic design are Moreau's elaborate lab equipment and a climbing structure on which the performers contort, shiver in slow-motion convulsions, and swarm at those they consider threats. Kendra Rai's elaborate costumes provide suggestions of animal features without becoming overly literal. Brittany Diliberto's lighting design balances the all-encompassing darkness of the jungle, pierced with green stars, with the sharply focused beams and cones of light in Moreau's compound.