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The Seventh Monarch
The disappearance of Miriam's parents, their blood-stained rug, her incredible ability to remember every word of each of the many newspapers she's read, launch Miriam and the audience into a mystery compounded by Miriam's extraordinary power to heal the bodies and transform the inner space of everyone she encounters. That includes Raina, the social worker, whose own daughter and son were victims of tragedy and guilt; Detective Leo Garnes, a kind lumbering fellow shadowed by illness and a dark past of his own; Miriam's public defender Grey Collins, a Gary Cooper clone; and the de facto villain of the piece, lecherous DA Kenneth Stockard, who thinks a murder case featuring Miriam's missing parents will make a dandy billboard for his political campaign.
Miriam was born on the day Sputnik was launched and a seminal event in her life occurred on the day the spacecraft Challenger crashed. She has inflicted scars on her own body ever since in memory of the personal encounter with someone she calls The Chosen One who branded her back. Withdrawn into her space helmet and her world of monarch butterflies, Miriam says of the cuts she inflicts on herself, "My pain lets me know I'm alive. My body cries for me."
The play is sometimes confusing but its obvious that plot is simply the blueprint for Henry's ingenious edifice -- exploring a mind that literally and figuratively reaches for the stars and how the natural world can be brought to bear on the limitations of humanity.
The mystery and richness of Miriam's mind are visually created by another of Desma Murphy's wonderful sets, which are always worth a trip to The Road Theatre all by themselves. Towering columns of bound newspapers rim the stage. A ceiling of dangling leaves creates a jungle roof. A catwalk that stretches across the back of the stage is used as a bridge, a roof and a symbol of the soaring heights of Miriam's mind.
Tamara Zook makes Miriam the play's awkward, touching and scary center She is precise in her delusions and consistently believable. Zook is ably supported. Taylor Gilbert brings warmth and reserve to the suffering character of Raina. Michael E. Dempsey radiates malignant purpose as Stockard. Ken Zavayna is an amiable yet conflicted Detective Garnes. Lance Guest as a Grey Collins simmers with potential.
Deborah LaVine keeps the play's suspense through line on track while astutely leaving room for its magic. Carey Chico's music of the spheres and Robert L. Smith's shadowy lighting are integral parts of the play's unique atmosphere. .
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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