Trigger warning: this review contains references to a play containing linguistically graphic depictions of sexual assault, forced abortion, racism, misogyny of the violent sort, disembowelment, and sex with demons.
And these are some of the lighter moments in Terminus.
Terminus concerns the extended damnation of three lost Dublin souls (two metaphorical, one literal) dehumanizingly labeled A, B, and C. Written in three interlocking verse monologues, playwright Mark O’Rowe has crafted a darkly cunning linguistic puzzle that demands full and constant attention for the duration. Once he has you under that spell though, Rowe begins twisting the knife, and aside from the occasionally witty turn of phrase, he never really stops. For a solid hour and three quarters I was repulsed, disgusted, and by the end depleted of patience but that seems Rowe and company’s intention, so…. success? Terminus, somehow, managed to cross some internal line of mine. Hell, I’m almost impressed.
The trio of actors all acquit themselves well, it can be said. Director Tom Story keeps his cast largely locked in place on Deb Thomas’s tight, dank subway-tunnel set. Adrian Rooney’s lights are dim to the point of oppression.
The standout here is Dylan Myers as desperately misogynistic serial killer C, a sad sack who sold his soul to Satan for a chance for more luck with the ladies. Myers is great in a role that can only be called problematic, politically speaking. Constant are his depictions of violence, mostly against women, often sexualized. That Myers could get as many dark laughs as he did are a testament to his considerable charms.
Katie Ryan is fine as B, a young woman whose whirlwind romance with a worm-formed demon stands as the most oddly hopeful of the storylines (for a time). Only the usually great Nana Ingvarsson as A seemed to be occasionally tripped up by the rhythms of the constant verse, though damn if she didn’t passionately give her all during an intensely graphic climactic description of a backroom abortion.
Closes January 4, 2015
The Studio Theatre
1501 14th St. NW
1 hour, 45 minutes, no intermission
So is the show good? Is it worthy art? Sure, I guess. It’s achieved at a high technical level. Is the language poetic? Sure. O’Rowe is a fantastic talent and his work is rightly becoming more widely known in this country. Is the acting good? It’s largely great, Myers especially. But did I enjoy Terminus? Can’t honestly say that I did. Over the course of the show I proceeded from amused to shocked to annoyed to eventually just deadened and sad. I felt worse leaving than I did coming in, and without any sense of context for that pain. At some point I stopped caring about what happened on stage, that it held no real meaning. Dark art for dark art’s sake.
Terminus by Mark O’Rowe . Directed by Tom Story . Featuring Nanna Ingvarsson, Katie Ryan and Dylan Myers. Set design: Deb Thomas . Costume design: Brandee Mathies . Lighting and Sound design: Adrian Rooney . Produced by Studio Theatre . Reviewed by Ryan Taylor.
Closes Jan 4
Celia Wren . Washington Post darkly mystical urban tale contains hurtling chase scenes — one involving cops and a criminal, and one a set of fate-enforcing angels.
John Stoltenberg . MagicTime for lovers of deliciously well-wrought language, Terminus is like a trip to the ear candy shop.
Keith Tittermary . BroadwayWorld a wonderful, if not frightening, story of finality. O’Rowe weaves this tale like a modern day Beckett and writes in a rhytmic pattern that feels free form
Robert Michael Oliver . DCMetroTheaterArts three characters standing in their respective spotlights and speaking their monologues of narrative poetry like rushing river rapids: their eyes full of pain as a betrayal is recounted, their cheeks full of glee as a life goal is realized.
Elizabeth Bruce . MDTheatreGuide O’Rowe ratchets up the RPMs of storytelling to heart-stopping speed.