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THEATER REVIEW

A $^%*@!& Good Show

“Power of Darkness” is Sexy and Convincing

By Jessica O. Young

Dramashop

Power of Darkness

Kresge Little Theatre

April 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 8 p.m.

$8 general, $6 students/seniors

Written by Leo Tolstoy

Directed by Jay Scheib

Starring James Dai G, Jessica Hinel ’05, Arshan Gailus ’06

Among the dozens of shows I’ve seen at MIT, “Power of Darkness” stands alone. Presented by the MIT Dramashop, and directed by Jay Scheib, the Tolstoy play tells a story of good people making really, really bad decisions.

Leo Tolstoy wrote this late nineteenth century play after interviewing two individuals who were later incarcerated for the crimes depicted in “Power of Darkness.” The play was banned in Russia, but opened on Broadway in 1920 for over 85 performances. Afterwards, it disappeared for a while. Banned most likely because of its importance to the Naturalism movement, the play depicts a family torn apart by the enticing suitor, Nikita (James Dai G). Once a single bad decision is made, the effects become exponential, and the family soon finds themselves trapped in inescapable misery.

Scheib’s “Power of Darkness” is thoroughly sexy. Ordinary words are filled with life through a physical and dramatic interpretation of the script. Also, cast members work very well with each other, and each line is delivered with care. Because of these things, the entire play comes off as intense and powerful.

Little Kresge is hardly recognizable under the auspices of Scheib. The stage is covered in an eye-popping blue carpet, and the set is creative, original, and full of surprises -- a flipping couch, a faucet with running water, and a working coffee maker. What makes the set so remarkable, though, is how the characters interact with it. Within the first ten minutes of the show, main characters Nikita and Anisya (Jessica E. Hinel ’04) find themselves tumbling across the stage and into walls during a disturbingly realistic fight. At the same time, live videos reveal what is going on in another section of the stage. Similar camera-work is used cleverly throughout the play.

The acting is, without a doubt, the best I have seen in a long time. Faces I recognized from campus became virtually indistinguishable as the actors assumed their roles. When a coughing and hacking Peter (Arshan J. Gailus ’06) slowly dies, it is a challenge to separate reality from the stage. Gailus is so convincing in his role that I was tempted to run to the stage and help him myself. Likewise, Hinel is absolutely compelling in her role as a passionate, and then pained, wife. Overall, every character is crazy in an addictive way, making the entire play fascinating.

This is, for lack of a better phrase, a physical show. Things are thrown around -- soda cans, tables, and people. There is always something happening on the stage, and some emotion being stirred in the audience. Scheib explains that he and his cast were, “One hundred percent in pursuit of the author’s intentions.” At the same time, some characters’ parts were split to create more roles, and some lines are said at the same time, or in a different language. These techniques, among others, keep the audience wanting more, without ever knowing what to expect.

Scheib will bring “Power of Darkness” to Budapest this summer. Even if you can make it then, see it this Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. You just might find me in the audience for a second viewing.