Salish

nytheatre.com review by Kacey Stamats
July 26, 2013

Title:Point’s Salish is about severed feet on a beach. It is about two terrified and sympathetic strangers. It is about being lost or stranded in the dark mysterious place were the feet wash up, one after another, audible in the surf, and so few of them seem to match up.  Yes, it may be Avant-Garde, and in the central characters T, played by Theresa William Buchheister and R, played by Ryan William Downey there is a nod to characters written by Beckett. However, Salish is original in both its poetic language and its many narrative twists and turns. Also, I am much relieved to report, Salish is a comedy.

The humor runs the range of situation, shock, sight gag, and the absurd, but rests most constantly on the sort of smart, mirthful knowing I’d normally associate with a late night viewing of a good horror movie. Gore and special effects in this play are high impact, but also intentionally transparent. The Sound/Vision design by Scott William Ries works in combination with thematic elements to become deeply unsettling. At one point I found myself averting my eyes from the projection screen showing otherwise innocuous videos of toes. They were well filmed and so well placed I couldn’t bear to look at them. The situations depicted onstage are dreadful, confining and often focused on death and dread of violence, but laughter is a great release.

Silent Barn as a performance space invites fascination.  There is art on display in the open yard entrance and within the inner corridors. The set of Salish feels like an art installation; wooden feet and other ominous objects hang from the ceiling, a giant moon rises in one corner, a red orb light seems to pulsate with anticipatory music, and real tree branches crack underfoot.  The audience is seated along the walls of the space for this theatre in the round, every seat with a clear view across the stage.

E. James Ford as Herald warmly welcomes the audience at the top of the evening. His emphatic eye contact and Coney Island painted-on-smile contrast wonderfully with his genuine delivery and remarkable vocal control. He sets the tone of contradictions to come. His solid voice, energy, and flabbergasting range make for mesmerizing poetic orations.

Sam Mickens as Samuel totters onstage in a pair of cowboy boots. In a theatre so filled with real exposed and wooden feet his costume invites squeamish speculation. At times he seems disconnected and less flesh and bone then the others from the world of Salish, but perhaps this was an intentional choice.  He sets up a supernatural element and some tense and fascinating situations for Buchhesiter and Downey. He may also have some of the funniest deadpan lines in the play, including one that seemed to speak directly to anyone trying to sort out the narrative. “You seek the truth. You will get over that,” he says. More than half the audience members I could see laughed or grinned at that line, but several just looked more vexed then before.

Joey Lepage as Jorb in a quiet but essential role is troubling in the best sense. In interest of keeping the plot under wraps I can say little about his actions in the play. Simply that he is a force, sometimes repellent, sometimes magnetic, sometimes startling or mysteriously absent and a topic of my endless speculation after the show.

If I make little mention so far of T and R, played by Buchheister and Downey, it is because they begin to feel like eyes and hands into this strange world. In the first half of the play I was less aware of watching them as actors then I was of experiencing what they experienced.  They developed a nuanced but troubling relationship. They found surprising ways to come in contact with each other, back to back in the first encounter, and later, lying feet to feet on the beach.  The intensity of their connection made the reversals all the more jarring. The absence of one of them opens up a painful void until the appearance of Catrin Lloyd-Bollard as Trinket.

Lloyd-Bollard enters the stage with a riveting physical presence. Her mute show is fantastic, and when she does speak her performance is riveting. Like Ford as Herald she shows a control all the more impressive for the emotional force under her words. Through her character Salish plays with tangible, recognizable stereotypes and subverts them deliciously.

According to the program “Salish is an original work developed by Title:Point Productions with support from The Mental Insight Foundation.” No one person is given credit for the wickedly intelligent and cohesive script, or the well thought out costume designs. Salish creates an atmosphere I could have stewed in for much longer then it’s hour and a half running time.  One fellow theatregoer told me, “I really could have had that ending drawn out further, the entire audience could have sat there longer, sitting there a little longer (before the applause began) would have been fulfilling”

My recommendation, see Salish with a friend or several friends who will have time to talk afterwards, if you’re anything like me you’ll want to hash out meanings, reexamine startling plot points, and revisit parts of this experience. Or else be prepared to have Salish flavored absurdist humor nightmares.

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