Saturday, March 31, 2012

theatre notes. torso.

It was impulse, an impromptu night at the theatre, the second-to-last showing of Printer's Devil Theatre's Torso, at Theatre Off Jackson. It's a small space tucked into the basement of what used to be the old Wing Luke Museum, down in the International District. In the early 90's we had season tickets there; I remember most clearly the production of The Skin of Our Teeth, and another play about the Japanese internment camps during World War II. Some years ago the theatre was resurrected, and I had been hearing good things about them and about this latest production. The deciding factor was the presence of Sarah Rudinoff, who I loved in Cloud 9 last summer.

Torso surprised me. It was so much funnier than I had expected. (You could tell which members of the audience were theater people by when and how loudly they laughed). I had expected the searing anger of loss, but a thread of comedy runs through it, springing from a bad blind date told in flashback, which continues on as the relationship grows. The story splits into two jaggedly parallel lines, leaping back and forth in time, four of the five cast members switching characters and costumes in a blink of an eye. The heart of the play is Daphne, crippled by the grief of her sister's death, four years before, and struggling with the news that her childhood friend, Marlo, has been charged with the murder of her own brother. One thing about Sarah Rudinoff, who plays Daphne: she is quite extraordinarily beautiful, especially when a fleeting moment of joy lights up her face, like the last bright glow of sunset before nightfall. She has this openness of expression, of anger or fear or pain or disgust or laughter, the emotions passing as swiftly as the dialogue.

I can't stop thinking about Torso, about whether Daphne will cross that same line as Marlo and Dom have done, whether her need for justice will lead her to her brother-in-law's door, gun in hand. Whether killing her sister's lame-ass husband who let her die will give her any kind of peace, or only haunt her more. These questions remain unanswered, as they do in real life. The questions that remain are: how do our lives spiral so quickly out of control, and what separates those who have murder in their hearts from those who cross into action? I walk away with these human stories and turmoils going round and round in my head.

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