The lights come up on heavy, agitated, quick breathing. The dank, low ceilings of Rabbittown Theatre enhance the anxiety in the air.
The opening moments of local playwright Mark Edward Quinn White’s “The Apple The Tree” are intense and powerful. It’s 3 a.m., and Richard (Darren Ivany) is digging a grave. Exactly whose at this point, we are unsure. We just know he seems to be feeling uneasy about something.
The fourth wall of theatre is down — that is, Richard speaks to the audience/himself/whoever is in that grave. We learn that he and his wife are expecting, and that he has a step-daughter named Emily, who he adores. We learn that he was adopted, just like her, and he recently decided to find out who his real parents are.
Well, it turns out that might not have been such a great idea, because the rest of the 45-minute, one-man play is Richard coming to grips with a series of deep, dark, ugly secrets that have been buried much deeper and longer than that grave he’s digging.
The staging is effective — with the audience surrounding the glowing white box that’s a grave in an L-shape, we are right in there with Richard. The size of the theatre makes it an effective venue for long, awkward, scary pauses, heavy breathing and loud banging.
The subject matter is powerful, and there is potential for a disturbing and gripping story to be told here.
But the “less is more” rule can be applied to the writing and acting in some instances. There are comical lines, yet when the seriousness comes along it comes off as over-the-top and almost farcical. A balance between goofy comedy and disturbing psycho-drama needs to be reached … a la Christian Bale in “American Psycho.”
I imagine Richard to be a comically but disturbingly maniacal character who constantly teeters between compassion and hysteria, purity and indecency.
Ivany is strong with the comedy, but the transition to tortured adoptee/step-parent could be a little less juxtaposed in order for it to live a little further away from SNL sketch land. There needs to be a constant undertone of mania threaded within each and every comic line.
This is a workshop production that is destined to become a solidly creepy production. GraveYard Shift Productions is a new emerging artist theatre company operating out of Rabbittown, whose mandate is to promote the work of emerging artists through professional productions and to provide mentorship from established artists. Young playwrights are blessed to live in a town where so many such opportunities exist.
“The Apple The Tree” finished its run at Rabbittown Theatre Sunday.