Do you know what a paraplegic, a wolf, a fairy, two pregnant teens and a dancing hooker have in common? Neither do I! But that's what the current show "The Skriker" at the Erickson Theatre offered up in director Janice Findley's imagining of Caryl Churchill's creepy look at a world filled with magical spirits seducing young unwed mothers. And after seeing the show I can honestly say I STILL have no idea what they have in common.
In Churchill's play we follow an ancient fairy known as the Skriker (Mary Ewald) as she attempts to seduce two pregnant teens, Josie and Lily (Mariel Neto and Jessica Martin) in order to … well, I'm not sure what she wanted with them. I think maybe their devotion or blood or wishes made her stronger … or something. But whatever her reason she takes on different guises throughout the show in order to trick the girls into going with her. And that's pretty much the play. So rather than just present that which would have taken about a half an hour, director Findley along with choreographer Pat Graney have added to the mix oodles of dance sequences that only served to make the "story" even more confusing. There was the violent rape dance which played out around a giant version of one of Lily's platform shoes as she dreamt. There was the brief beach scene which seemed to have no bearing on the story other than to have more set pieces and costumes as none of the three main characters were in it. There was the paraplegic who was being seduced by a sprite so she could steal his small cake. And as I mentioned before there was the inexplicable dancing hooker who continued to gyrate and undulate across the stage throughout the entire show.
Ewald as the eponymous demon felt a bit over the top throughout. Her constant manic screaming dialog just grated, although I can say it fit in perfectly with the tone of this over the top show. And Neto and Martin, who seemed to be the only somewhat sane people on stage, handled their roles and accents fine but lacked much growth especially considering the freaky shit both of them were going through.
I should really take a moment to point out that I hate performance art. I find it pretentious and see no reason for it. If you want to tell me a story then tell me a story but don't cover it with afterbirth, beat it with pillows and call it art (I actually saw a show that did that once). And this production is much less about theater and more about performance art and while at least there was no afterbirth, it did come across as quite pretentious. And I'm sure some people might say, "It's avant-garde." But too often people use that term to mean "something that you're not smart enough to understand but I am" but really just ends up being weird for the sake of being weird. I prefer my theater with more plot, directness and story. If you have to explain the symbolism to your audience after the show, then you have failed as a storyteller. Just keep it simple and leave the dancing hookers out of it.
"The Skriker" performs at the Erickson Theatre through November 11th. For tickets or information visit them online at www.janicefindley.com/Theater.
Photo credit: Paul Joseph Brown