Thursday, February 26, 2009

Crave -- Theater Ninjas @ Asterisk Gallery 2/21

Crave -- Theater Ninjas @ Asterisk Gallery 2/21
Sarah Kane, the author of Crave -- now being staged by Theater Ninjas -- was a very troubled woman. Even though she was hailed as a talented playwright by the press, she committed suicide at the age of 28. Her plays, from a psychological viewpoint, were cries for personal help from the demons who were at war in her mind. Crave, which is having its Ohio premiere, was her fourth play -- first performed in 1998 in Scotland. It features four characters (or possibly four elements of the human mind), each of whom is only identified by a single letter. The script has no stage directions and really no indication of the intent of the writer.

It examines the trauma of rape, infidelity, loneliness, familial rejection, childlessness, death, sex, loneliness, relationships, suicide and child molestation. The characters appear to be dismayed by an existence over which they have no control. In contrast to a traditional script, Crave is a series of fragmented sentences, phrases, poetic stories, monologues and dialogues. They are not connected to each other to create clear concepts.

Ideas flow through phrases such as: “I am not what I am; I am what I do.” “It talks about the definitive role of the centre in the geometry of the circle where there is no chicken and egg dilemma as to who came first as it was the centre that came first and then the circle was formed.” “I had to fake orgasms before but now I have to fake not having an orgasm.”

The Theater Ninjas' production of Crave is creatively staged by Jeremy Paul, who uses the Asterisk Gallery space to intensify the chaotic arrangement of the lines. The four actors run, jump, roll, crawl, chase each other and move in programmed chaos around the gallery’s display panels. As for the members of the cast -- Lucy Bredeson-Smith, Terence Cranendonk, Val Kozlenko and Layla Schwartz -- each are compelling. It is not only a wonder how they learned the massive number of lines but also the intricate blocking supporting said lines.

Capsule judgment: The 50-minute play is a mental challenge. There are constant questions of “what does this all mean?” Discussing the happenings after the production is as intriguing as watching the abstract experience itself. If that’s your “thing” then you’ll enjoy the production. But, if you’re into clear messages in happy encasements, forget seeing this.

From Cool Cleveland contributor Roy Berko

Roy Berko's blog, which contains theatre and dance reviews from 2001 through 2009, as well as his consulting and publications information, can be found at