In These Woods
nytheatre.com review by Nita Congress
August 23, 2011
A one-eyed woman furiously drawing curtains open and shut, open and shut. A dapper, ominous, dancing midget talking backwards about gum. A slightly swaying traffic light in the dark. Black, black coffee in a white, white mug. A whirring fan. A lady with a log.
If these sound familiar, you remember Twin Peaks, the weirdest television show of all time. And if they make you long for the rich dark chords of Angelo Badalamenti, equal parts grandeur and Grand Guignol, or for the purest—albeit quirkiest—hero ever, Agent Dale Cooper, or for the master behind it all, the incomparable, inscrutable, irrepressible David Lynch, then you might enjoy spending an hour In These Woods, recapturing the Peakie spirit.
The evening purports to be an episode from the lost (because never done) third season of Twin Peaks. And given the tangled mass of plot threads that show spun madly over its thirty extent episodes, that’s a tall order.
Improv artists J Hobart B, Danielia Donohue, Michael Newman, Reilly Owens, Greg Portz, James Rich, Lorie Steele, and Shawn Wickens give their all to recreating—or at least invoking—the show’s mood, characters, and style. They give us the townsfolk of Twin Peaks with warmth and fondness, and that’s great fun. Watching Danielia Donohue, for example, ably evoke the good Doc Hayward, or James Rich bring out all the surreal nuttiness of Bobby, is a real pleasure.
Also a pleasure is when the players take sly pokes at the material. As when James Hurley, moodily hunched over a coffee at the Double R Diner, engaged in desultory conversation with Agent Cooper, suddenly looks up and asks Dale point blank the question so many of us had, “Didn’t you already solve the murder? Why are you still here?” Or when Sheriff Truman explains the efforts being made to extinguish Big Ed’s gas farm, noting “The fire chief is coming from a town with a fire department.”
Mostly, though, the players limit themselves to improv-ing scenes that explain what happened. And that’s something of a mistake. The great beauty of Twin Peaks was that it really didn’t make a lick of sense—it was all about sleek style, arresting images, and swift juxtapositions of logic and nonsense. It was a marvelous mess, and the players do best when they ride that. Then, the deadpan, dour, and frequently demented denizens of Washington’s most photogenic town are back, at least for an hour.