Following the trend where a number of small performance groups in town have chosen to host work in houses and apartments, Body House
, written by Megan Clark and directed by Gwethalyn Williams, takes theater out of the theater and into a place where you feel like you're part of the action.
The house location used in this particular piece never feels cramped, in part because only six people are allowed to see the show at one time. Rather than squishing everyone together, audiences are given free reign to walk wherever they choose in the house. This means that you don't so much watch the action as you experience it, moving to different parts of the house to see what's going on or to see what's happening from different angles. If you get in the actor's way, you're simply asked to move so that the action can continue.
There's a sense of anachronism in Body House. The characters speak in a heightened, formal way that feels old-timey. There's two couples who live in the same home, and while one of the couples (played by Justin Caron and Andi Vargo) wear more modern dress, the other couple (played by Blake E. Bolan and Timothy Otte) wear clothes that could be mid-20th century. The house, however, is just a regular modern-day apartment, with the exception of a giant web with letters caught up in it that hangs from the ceiling in one of the rooms. Another time period also comes into play when one of the characters pulls out a videotape and plays it in the VCR.
There's an odd juxtaposition in the piece between the rigid, dense poetic language and horror. There's blood, there's body parts, and there's rather gruesome acts involving those body parts. But while it might be a bit gross at times, it's never scary. Perhaps this is because the pace is so slow and the poetic language creates an emotional distance that makes you not identify with the characters. At one point the horror is further distanced by being played on the television screen in a video designed by Ted Eschweiler. Its an almost campy moment, except that the actors play it very serious.
Ultimately, Clark's script isn't about the plot so much as it is about the idea of human beings striving to understand one another. They attempt to do so not by simply listening or being empathetic with one another, but by literally attempting to join their bodies. It's definitely very strange.
IF YOU GO:
Through January 25
8 p.m. Thursdays; 7 and 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays