Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Review: Going Out With a Bang

How would you spend your final moments on this earth if you knew you were about to depart this life? In Carl Holder's An Intimate Evening with Typhoid Mary, a dying man offers a fever dream cabaret with parallels to the titular woman in question. Presented by Glass Bandits Theater Company, An Intimate Evening with Typhoid Mary is a tangentially chaotic exploration of isolation.
Virtually a solo show with an ensemble of help, Carl Holder’s An Intimate Evening with Typhoid Mary follows Martin Allen, a man confined to hospital bed in solitary, as he presents one final act before his imminent demise. Filled with a plethora of non-sequiturs, Holder’s piece is polarizing to say the least. The focus of the piece is a man named Martin Allen, which is certainly a play upon the real identity of Typhoid Mary Mallon. The content of text that Holder provides for Martin Allen is essentially a series of tangents that have morals and themes hidden deep within. Excavating them is the real challenge. With a series of appearances from the nurse, doctor, and orderly, Martin is brought back to reality as he comes face to face with a failing body. If you’re looking for something that is plot drive, or even containing a strong character arc, this may not be the right piece for you. But what you can appreciate is the performance from Carl Holder. What Holder does is not easy. Holder’s performance is emotionally and physically taxing. And for that you have to reward him. But grasping just exactly what Holder has Martin Allen spewing is the real challenge.
photo by Knud Adams
The real triumph of An Intimate Evening with Typhoid Mary was the production design. Director Knud Adams organized a strong team to lift the script onto the stage. There was a present concept that was fully-realized. The set from James Ortiz not only brought the reality of the isolated hospital ward but it was practical in the sense that Oona Curley was able to transform it with her lights. The precision in which the lighting vocabulary was executed was tantalizing. Curley defined realities through the sickening colors of Martin’s fever cabaret and the sterile lights when the hospital staff was present. Adding to the meticulousness of timing, the sound design by Peter Mills Weiss was strong. The selections that Weiss made fit the world in which Holder crafted.
The idea that this is Martin Allen’s world and the hospital staff were merely just there was evident in Adams’ staging. The Doctor, Nurse, and Orderly, played by Justin Kuritzkes, Molly McAdoo, and Ephraim Birney respectively, were always present whether on the outskirts of Martin’s confinement or inside with him. They were a supporting staff that didn’t really get to do much but when they were in the moment, they sold reality. And this was never truer than when Martin finally perspires. The sterile reactions were terrifying. The fact they lacked attachment to Martin’s death may have been the most powerful, yet grounding, moment of the entire piece.
An Intimate Evening with Typhoid Mary has so much content that it may be hard to grasp at first. There is a lot going on. This play is not for everyone. But you have to appreciate the visual aesthetic An Intimate Evening with Typhoid Mary provides. It makes the play endurable.