Monday, April 1, 2019

Monica Dottor's picture perfect set for Lisa Ryder’s surreal nightmare-cum-psychodrama - A BLOW IN THE FACE -  depicting the inner workings of one woman’s experience with postpartum depression, is the ideal pictorial foundation for a near absurdist script to play itself out on. Within the first quarter hour of this seventy minute roller coaster ride, one is drawn into the dreamy ceiling hung clouds and the lush red velvet sofa of a fledgling-family abode that quickly explodes into the internal turmoil of a new mother on the edge of sanity. 

Jordan Pettle, as the doting husband who says almost all the wrong things, manages against all odds, to become slightly sympathetic and admirable, yet falls appropriately into the trap of someone - a man - who simply has no idea what it feels like to give birth to a child, as well as all the fear, despair, delirium  and self loathing that ensuing post-partum can instil. 

Lisa Ryder as playwright dives, at the outset, into a severe yet paradoxically controlled display of maniacally deft acting skill and intensely detailed writing that brings the intricacies of dream, memory,  and dense trauma into a web of harrowing dramaturgical horror & delight. 

Despite the great vocal volume of all the actors - that might have been gradually layered to create a bit more of a buildup to the central and lengthy 'dream/delusion' sequence - one is able to glean the intricacies and glaring subtleties regarding the blurring of reality with an absurd defamiliarization effect that collapses into psychological mayhem when a new mother confronts the physical, mental, and emotional hardship required for the care and feeding of a very fragile creature - an infant.

Roofers become demons, tar becomes a mutating creature being tugged at like dark taffy by warring entities, and the looming presence of the edge of an urban transport warning sign becomes the equals sign that one wants to avoid at all cost. 

Selina Martin and Ryder deliver superbly absurd performances as Alice's internal demons, materializing in human antic form all of the explosive madcapery and mind-game fuckuppery that elements of paranoia, genuine concern, and physical fear can bring to a truly isolating and psychologically challenging state of being. 

In the end, A Blow In The Face, under the direction of Dottor’s controlled, breakneck, always tightly choreographed direction (with fight direction by Louisa Zhu), aided by evocative music by Selina Martin, sound design byRichard Feren, and lighting by Oz Weaver, is a tightly bound, high energy depiction of one of nature's, and psychology's, most frightening obstacles.

And there are moments of pure haunting beauty. At one point Selina Martin as Fluff Pup, framed by Ryder as Cloudy Twilight and Degenstein as Alice, powerfully sings an eerily heartbreaking song as her deeply layered vocals and perilous rocking movements swing the three week old baby in a frilly iconic cradle - becoming a kind of harrowing lullaby, a type of Rosemary's Baby forewarning of how things may turn out after the crib has been unveiled and the mother and child union turns into an at times comical, despairing, and never ending ride thru the intensity that childbirth and its potential aftermath can bring. 

And yet, in the end, the script, like a tapestry of love, fear, and emotional conquest, brings it all together into a climax that unsettles and enlightens regarding the power of one woman when she is left alone with a newborn, a leaky roof, a working but absent husband, and all of the morphing creatures that somehow seep into her mind and allow her the gravitas, the flailing, the self knowing, the fear, the courage, and the presence of mind to ultimately make her way through sheer terror as she responds to and tackles the complex and timeworn miracle of birth.


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