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A CurtainUp Phildelphia Review
Richard (Kevin Meehan), full of hopelessness and guilt, lives in a dark place in his head. Rachel (Taysha Canales) insistently works to establish trust, trying to show him a way out of his difficulties. Rachel has had a standard bumpy dating history, but she's willing to give it another go. Richard struggles to remember what he might have said to her when they met and got drunk. The repetition and variation is compelling as he continually revisits their first encounter at the bar. That night plays back in his mind in fits and starts, possibly false starts. His interest in Rachel, however, doesn't go much beyond wondering how much he told her.
As a kid Richard once visited a cave called the Moon Cave, where he found refuge in the dark. He felt safe because he thought if people could see him, they'd know who he was and what he had done. Richard has always remembered the lure of that dark cave. He tells Rachel that seeing complete darkness makes you different.
Rachel maintains an interest in him beyond all reason, telling this oddball ruined person that she loves him. What does she love, besides his good looks? Is it his impenetrability, his damaged soul, his self-focus? Or is her romantic interest in a man who barely reciprocates her attention a sign that she's in love with the idea that she might rescue him?
In his director's notes Kevin Glaccum commends "the enormous talent pool we're so lucky to have here in Philadelphia." Together the writer, director, design team and actors at Azuka create and sustain a pervasive off-kilter mood that builds, carrying the audience along in its momentum. This is not something easily achieved.
Meehan sinks into his character, whose whole posture is reluctant and passive, while the challenge of Canales's character is that she's basically an unknown quantity, doggedly trying to establish trust. Scenic, costume, and lighting design set an appropriately contemporary and slightly somber tone. Sound designer Nick Kourtides' powerful, dark interludes between scenes contribute much to the increasingly disturbing atmosphere. More like sound-scenes than intervals, the music's loud chaotic clamor renders voices and whispered words barely discernible within a whoosh of sound.
The dramatic denouement, shrouded in mystery, is a perfect fit – for the essential thrust of the story. But a contributing story thread dangles unresolved, leaving the ending to feel less than complete. However, Moon Cave, a promising play, persistently holds audience interest, and Doug Williams' first professional production is an impressive debut.
Note: Moon Cave playwright Douglas Williams, Azuka Theatre's Playwright-in-Residence, is a founding member of Orbiter 3, a playwrights producing collective. His work has been produced in the SoLow Fest, and he was one of the writers of the fabulous little FringeArts hit, Holly's Dead Soldiers (2013).