In a Forest, Dark and Deep
As any avid reader, movie fan or theater patron can tell you, nothing good ever happens in a cabin "In a Forest, Dark and Deep." And prolific filmmaker and playwright Neil LaBute’s 2011 play does nothing to distill that notion. Paradoxically Second Thought Theatre can boast of presenting a smart production of "In a Forest, Dark and Deep;" a play that is not as smart as it wants to be.
The play has a roller coaster structure that starts with a slow steady rise and then is filled with stomach dropping and gravity hugging plot twists. But like a roller coaster you can see the plot twists and turns of "In a Forest, Dark and Deep" coming if you’re looking for them. The transparency of the plot doesn’t lessen the sensation of watching it brutally play out. But in the end the play doesn’t leave you with much to think about except for the stagey plot twists.
"In a Forest, Dark and Deep" is the type of work that is difficult to write about without revealing the story. The set-up is mirrored by its Once Upon A Time, stylized title. Betty, a fortysomething dean of a small local college asks her younger brother Bobby (and his truck) to help sort and move some things from the forested cabin. What can be revealed are the play’s themes of isolation, loneliness, truth and sibling rivalry and love.
The themes aren’t subtly underlined in the plot but are obvious signposts yelling "look at me." For example when you enter the theater and stare at the unlit set you eventually realize that one of the characters is sitting alone in the dark. (Look at me!) Get it?
Regan Adair pulls off a directing coupe by keeping the action tightly focused, eliciting heated performances from his two actors and disguising the holes in the plot until their transparency is obvious. Adair also creates a fantastic two-wall set. The missing two walls of the cabin are where the audience risers sit so that you see other theater patrons through the play’s action on the other side of the stage. Despite this apparently airy setup Adair’s set creates an appropriately suffocating feeling, which is only amplified when his performers kick into high gear.
Betty is played effectively by Heather Henry while Jeremy Schwartz’ turn as Bobby is powerful. Betty lives in house of cards world she has created and Bobby ruthlessly enjoys shredding Betty’s cards.
Both performances start out timidly but as the sibling bantering and plot unraveling continues to be unveiled Henry and Schwartz vividly play off each other’s energy creating disturbingly impassioned characters.