review: eightythree down

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Eightythree Down

By J. Stephen Brantley
Directed by Daniel Talbott
Horse Trade Theater Group and Hard Sparks
at Under St. Marks 94 St. Marks Place
September 1, 2011 — September 17, 2011
production web site: http://www.horsetrade.info/

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
September 1, 2011

(L-R) Bryan Kaplan, Melody Bates, Brian Miskell. Photo by Hunter Canning.

A 2009 four-person, high energy, 1983-era slacker-in-parents-suburban-basement quick-paced intelligently crafted piece of theatre.  The basement performance space at Under St. Marks fits the mood, fits the tone, focuses our attention, keeps us on top of the action.

The story has just enough mysteries to keep us engaged. Why does delectable and tweaked (on pills or cocaine or both) Dina (Melody Bates) bursts into the basement bedroom of Martin (Brian Miskell) as if she had just been there yesterday when it has clearly been years?  (The actress in character looks like a cross between Debra Harry and Michelle Pfeiffer in the trashy early scenes of The Fabulous Baker Boys, and all of this is a compliment to Ms. Bates.  She is stunning and the characterization perfectly pitched.) And why does Martin remain as calm as he does for as long as he does through this invasion? Dina is immediately joined by two comrades Tony (Bryan Kaplan), all bulky lurking anger, and Stuart (Ian Molcomb), looking like an outcast from the British 1982-84 sitcom The Young Ones (a group of misfit ne’er do wells much like our blokes here).

Characters twitchy from nerves and substances.  A subtextual series of hurts and pains and hopes and fears and terrors played by each character in duos and triads and quartets.  Violence and calm delicately  choreographed by director Daniel Talbott.  And a plot and powerful acting that overcomes my own personal resistance to storytelling through the introduction of firearms.  All works.  All is earned.  And this is definitely worth a trip to St. Marks Place.

© Martha Wade Steketee (September 2, 2011)

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