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A surrealistic play that leaves you wanting more

October 12, 2012

The Fainting Couch is yet another thought provoking experience at Zombie Joe’s Underground.  The story balances the surreal in a simple and effective way.  The lighthearted unbelievable life occurs onstage in a fantasy world devoid of magic yet full of beauty where the characters get to forget their lives and live the fantasy if only while the curtains are up.  Backstage life takes a dark turn where magic shows you that for all of life’s beauty there is often a painful side.

The story follows the lives of our Heroine The Ballerina(Natalie Hyde)her friends The Large Fool(Ricky Lacorte), and lover The Small Fool(Donna Noelle Ibale).  Together they make up a performing troupe directed and controlled by an evil Magician(Rehyan Rivera) who created them, and sees them as nothing but extensions of his psyche, and tools to be used for his mental and physical pleasures.

The story begins as it ends, with tears and death.  Ballerina and The Small Fool are wrapping up their final scene.  You can see the emotional turmoil they are meant to convey as Ballerina dies on stage.  The Magician who is more than a little sadistic actually has Ballerina die every night on stage only to be brought back to life by his considerable power.  Moving onto the tragic and painful side of the story we see a glimpse behind the scenes.  It turns out the performers are all slaves of The Magician and must obey his every whim including locking themselves up at night.

Under the Direction of Zombie Joe the story is given life making full use of the imagery the actors must induce in the minds of the audience while performing in a Black Box Theater.  Several times while Ballerina, Small and Large Fool are physically on the same stage you get the sense that they are miles apart.  In one particular scene Ballerina is locked in her room at the center of the stage while the Fools speak to her.  Even though they are inches apart you get the sense that they are clutching at the walls of some high off bird cage.  A prison cell that Ballerina calls her room.  You really feel like the Fools can do nothing to reach her and must be satisfied with her voice and the caressing the walls of her cage.

As the story progresses the bifurcation that surrealistic art excels at becomes more and more pronounced.  The more pain and strife the characters suffer off stage the more beautiful the performance they are portraying onstage becomes.  Not to say that you can see a physical change in the acting, more so since you are seeing both the off stage and on stage scenes you can feel the characters are using their on stage time to escape the horror of their lives.  You start to feel for the characters more and more as they suffer the machinations of The Magician.

The portrayal of the characters is also well done.  Whether it’s Large Fool’s unchanging mindset or Small Fool’s progression from cowering weakling to resolute vindicator.  The Magician’s spiral into further self aggrandisement is also quite enjoyable to watch.  It’s like an egotistical train wreck.  The show was however written for by The Ballerina and her transition from battered slave to a firm self controlled and cunning individual is captivating.  Once the transition occurs she carries out the remainder of the story with a combination of grace and cunning that hint at her final destination but never quite far enough to know all of her future actions.

As I said the story starts as it ends in tears and death, but I don’t want to spoil the ending with just who is left crying over whom.

If I had one misgiving of The Fainting Couch it would be in the use of the surreal transition.  Surrealism allows for such highs and lows that it can be used to greater effect.  The off stage scenes could be a little more subdued, slower, more soft spoken.  Let the actors truly show their turmoil.  Counter that with the lively and energetic on stage scenes and the surrealistic effect would be more palpable.

When all is said and done The Fainting Couch leaves you with something I haven’t experienced often in theater.  It ages as does a fine bourbon.  The more you think of the performance and it’s subtle ties to reality the more profound the effect it has on you.  Just one hour after seeing the opening performance I longed to return and see it again.  The more I thought of it the better it became.  The more I wanted to find more hidden ties to reality upon seeing it again.

If you like Black Box Theater, or surrealism go see The Fainting Couch.  Even if you aren’t used to surrealism the longing you are left with after to re-watch this play is an amazing feeling.

The Fainting Couch runs Saturdays October 6th through November 3rd at 8:30pm.  For more information visit Zombie Joe’s website at:

From → Reviews

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