In Costa Rica, there exists a wasp that paralyzes spiders. It then lays an egg on the spider’s abdomen. When the egg hatches, the emerging larva lives off the spider’s blood then essentially takes over the its mind. The spider builds a web unlike any it’s ever built before, which will become the home for the larva’s cocoon. Once the spider is finished, the larva kills it by sucking all its blood, then it builds a cocoon in the middle of the web.
In the United States of America, there have been a number of horrific shootings during the past few years. Aurora. The New Orleans second-line shooting. Sandy Hook.
These two sets of events become intertwined in Larry E. Blossom’s Dance of the Wasp and Spider, when the Tyler Brody (Alex Badalov) begins obsessing over the existence of this wasp and turns it into a fractured metaphor for the world, which leads the boy to prepare his own reign of terror.
Badalov is phenomenal as Brody. Watching him go from being a normal, if somewhat moody, 18-year-old kid with his eyes set on college to a heretical violent madman is fascinating if not downright uncomfortable. His descent into madness, the glide into insanity, flows well and feels real in a most terrifying way.
Unfortunately, the script doesn’t match Badalov’s performance. In the matter of days, he goes from being a normal, stressed teenager into a raging psychopath. While it never blames any one thing in particular, the script seems to lob blame at a few targets for the boy’s undoing: violent video games (“I can’t get that gory shit out of my head lately,” Tyler says), his hardass father, played convincingly by Kevin Sidenstricker (“You can wallow in your teenage angst or you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” he tells his depressed son), pharmaceuticals (he begins abusing his sister’s Adderall, and we know he takes an anti-depressant) or possibly that he’s a homosexual (this comes up briefly, without having much affect on the story).
Dance of the Wasp and Spider
by Larry E. Blossom
at Mount Vernon United Methodist Church – Mountain
900 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
Where the script really falters is its meta-aspect, as it attempts a Hamlet-like play-within-a-play. His sister, the bratty and favored Haley Brody (played convincingly by Emily Sucher) and her boyfriend Brandon (Jared Calhoun) are rehearsing a play in which Haley portrays someone who goes from being normal to losing his mind. Sound familiar?
Heather Godwin deserves accolades for portraying Tyler and Haley’s mother, Lisa. A stay-at-home-mom caught in the middle of a number of family allegiances and battles (daughter-father, son-father, etc.), she displays strength in attempting to do what is right by everyone.
The play’s lighting and sound crew shouldn’t be ignored: In the moments of absolute insanity for Tyler, the room fills with a loud buzzing (of a wasp?) and brilliant red dots and swirling lights. Later, as more colors join the fray, we feel Tyler losing his grip on reality. It’s enough to make the audience uncomfortable, simply through manipulation of light and sound.
While the players do a fantastic job in the midst of their own tragedy, especially Badalov, who radiates his inner-battle, the script leaves a bit to be desired. Still, it has a way of making you crawl in your skin, which is the point. While that might not sound like a pleasant experience, this is one worth seeing.