- By Christiaan Greer
- Directed by Patrick Torres
- Produced by Doorway Arts Ensemble
- Reviewed by Janice Cane
“You would never kill me, would you, Ella?” “You would never make me, would you, Vlad?” Ah, young love. Nothing like it. Certainly nothing quite like Ella’s and Vlad’s explosive relationship. Peacemaking after their violent fights consists of cutting themselves with knives, while bonding experiences usually involve hard drugs. All of this is conveyed in the first, quickly paced scene of Anima, the riveting debut production of the Doorway Arts Ensemble.
Given the seething tension between the less-than-stable Ella and the “unhinged” Vlad, it doesn’t seem like the best idea when Ella invites an old high school friend, James, to stay with them while he looks for a job. Right away, Vlad feels threatened by the Iraq War veteran, as he should be. But despite James’ obvious attraction to Ella, the two men form a tenuous friendship, James sinking right into the drug-and-booze routine.
These characters are bruised and battered, more emotionally than physically, and they continually inflict further damage on themselves and each other. Rape emerges as a common biographical element for two of the reluctant roommates, and as an important element of playwright Christiaan Greer’s notion of whether people deserve the abuse inflicted on them by themselves and by others. Throw in sex and jealousy and horrific war stories and you get one emotionally taut script, brought vividly to life in this production.
Greer is working on a prequel to Anima. I hope it’s as thought-provoking and disturbing as the original, and I hope the same three actors are cast in the Washington production, because they do more than convince; they enthrall. As Vlad, Parker Dixon is grungy and fidgety, nearly exploding with pent-up energy. He crouches on the furniture like a devious monkey, ready to pounce on someone else’s weaknesses so he can ignore his own. In that way he and Ella, played by Marissa Molnar, are well suited. Caught between the two men, she practically spins with confusion and anxiety, never sitting still for a moment. Andres Talero’s James is much calmer, but when he described Iraq in a roiling monologue, I could practically feel his seething adrenaline coursing through my own veins. For me, Talero was the strongest element of the show, but he does need to slow down a bit-several lines were rushed and therefore lost on me.
Hannah Jean Crowell’s set is just as battered as its inhabitants, desperation oozing out like the ancient couch’s stuffing. Every detail has been thought out, down to the freezer door handle fashioned out of duct tape. I can just picture Vlad tearing off the original handle in a drug-induced fit of rage and strength. Fight choreographer Casey Kaleb also deserves a mention; with the exception of one false punch, the physicality on stage was convincing and gory.
In the Flashpoint black box, the set lies between the entrance and the seating, meaning audience members must walk through Ella’s living room. I noticed this on my way in but thought nothing of it-probably a decision forced by logistics. But on my way out – I suspected some strategy may have been involved – I actually felt uncomfortable crossing the set, as if I were tampering with a crime scene. A play that can do that is a play worth seeing, even if-or especially because-that uncomfortable feeling lingers hours after the curtain call.
This play is intended for a mature audience.
- Running Time: 1:30 minutes, no intermission
- When: Thru May 11. Thursday – Saturday at 8:00, and Sunday at 3:00 and 8:00.
- Where: Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint, 916 G Street, N.W. Washington, DC
- Tickets: $15
- Call: 1-800-494-TIXS or consult the website.