Down the Road
By Lee Blessing
Directed by Jesse Bush
Red Dagger Theatre Company
Creative Place Theatre
Non-union production (closed)
Review by John Chatterton
_Down the Road explores themes familiar from Blessing's Two Rooms: the tensions between man and wife and the roles of apartness and fantasy in a relationship. He uses some of the same theatrical tools, too -- especially alternation between two locations: the boundaries between locations dissolve as the tensions deepen and realism gives way to fantasy.
_This play concerns a couple (Iris and Dan Henniman, played by Abigail Morgan and Gregory Harr), who are ghostwriting a book about a serial killer, William Reach (Robert Cuthill). The action alternates between their motel room, where they worry about the book and continue in their efforts to procreate, and an interview room in the prison, where they play cat-and-mouse with their subject.
_Reach doesn't want to get into why he became a serial killer, perhaps because it was to escape the humdrum impotence of everyday life. Instead he wants to inflate the gore and horror of his acts, perhaps even inventing some that he hadn't previously confessed to. The Hennimans realize that their subject has more control over the situation -- and over their employment -- than they do. At the end of the play, Dan wants to continue, even if he must compromise his journalistic ethics, while Iris apparently opts out of both job and relationship.
_Reach's triumph is a no-brainer and hardly comes as a revelation, so there isn't much suspense. (Iris does get pregnant.) Iris and Dan's worries are often expressed in banal dialog, and Reach's character ranges from mildly sinister to blustery.
The production leached out whatever tension remained. Mr. Harr hardly flinched when Iris threatened to leave him. Mr. Cuthill, physically well-cast, showed considerable charm but was rarely convincing when he turned sinister. Ms. Morgan portrayed Iris's concerns convincingly enough.
The actors seemed unaware of what was going on around them. Later in the play, Reach wandered over to the motel room, where he engaged in fantasy dialog and business with Iris and Dan (a provocative but not always convincing touch). But instead of being chained down in manacles the rest of the time, which he certainly would be in real life, he wandered his cell with impunity, restricted only by handcuffs. (True, breakaway manacles are expensive. But pretending to be chained down isn't.) At one point this convicted serial killer shouted and held a tape recorder over his head while Iris sat calmly with her back to him. All that happened was that an offstage "guard" pounded on a door, and the three waved him off.
Andrew Cavanaugh Holland's scenic design of a bare-bones motel room and cell more than sufficed in setting location and mood, as did the lighting design, which used a literal handful of instruments.