Waiting for the End of the World

'Monster in the Dark' Presents Effective Vision of Dystopian Future With Disaster Lurking on the Horizon

Photo: HEARTS OF DARKNESS. foolsFury Theater's latest work presents a menacing world to challenge the values of modern society.
Foolsfury Theater/Courtesy
HEARTS OF DARKNESS. foolsFury Theater's latest work presents a menacing world to challenge the values of modern society.

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A monster is traditionally thought of as something that children dread at night; grotesque creatures that more often than not, are imagined. But a monster is frequently something very real; something that can exist within the human soul, only to be coaxed out in times of extreme passion or desperation.

Such is the case with the monsters of foolsFURY Theater Company's latest production, "Monster in the Dark." An original saga recounting the demise-by-biblical-flood of a utopia gone utterly wrong, it is a sort of futuristic Noah's Ark story that creates its own mythology and linguistic code. The first play written by novelist Doug Dorst, "Monster in the Dark" brings to life a bizarre metropolitan world ruled by a government called the Structure and a God-like figure called the Maker. In this way, the show attempts to take on the values of modern society. Characters in the show go about their daily lives, thinking in the financial terms of profits and resources, milling about at what one character accurately calls "the business of existing."

Director Ben Yalom's vision of this distorted world takes shape on the Ashby Stage. It is an oddly creepy feeling to walk into the theater and be instantly absorbed by the strange but vaguely familiar world that foolsFURY has created. During the pre-show, actors in character mingle with the audience, forcing theatergoers to become more than just casual observers.

The set-up is non-traditional in that the pew-like seats are in rows both in front of and behind the stage. This works because the show is so expertly blocked that it can be viewed from any angle.

The set itself is deceptively simple: though it barely consists of a few wooden structures, the choreography make anything more elaborate completely unnecessary. As for the monsters, they are manifested within each character. The show opens with the triggering of a torrential rainstorm that not even the Structure weatherman can logically explain. The values of the characters in the main plot are challenged as they are all drawn into the events surrounding the flood. This plot is spliced with scenes in which three ostracized characters give echoing monologues of how their lives have been shaped by the presence of the Structure. Notable among these is Delia (a fierce Blythe Foster) a Structure-endorsed prostitute who begins to fear what her life has become. Also, there is a man held prisoner in a tower for writing about the flood before it began. Played by Ryan Tasker, the Prisoner's ability to create the future is made even more disturbing by the fact that he seems to have no control over his creations. These scenes are effective to raise the issues of faith, fate, and control at the heart "Monster in the Dark."

And eventually, in a vision of the apocalyptic moment amidst a flood of human bodies, all of the characters con verge, washed together by the rising waters.

The show's endeavor to challenge the values of the modern society is ultimately successful. The actors have the talent to effectively handle dialogue that is charged with philosophical questioning that draws the audience into the mental turmoil of the inhabitants of a world that is being destroyed. Even the austere costumes are fascinating to behold. The only part of the play that lends itself to criticism is the ending: the audience is left hanging. Whether the ending is good or bad, hopeful or fatalistic; whether faith in the Maker, faith in Humanity, or nothing at all wins out over chaos; that is for the audience to decide.

Hide under the covers with Arielle [email protected]

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