Written by Sam Kahn
Directed by Roxana Kadyrova
Music Design by Vanessa Gould
Choreography by Derek Stratton
Scenic Design by Kellyann Hee
Graphics by Vladimir Gusev
Video DP Justin A. Gonçalves
Video Editor Justin A. Gonçalves
Video AC Lyle Parsons
Lighting design by Joan Racho-Jansen
Sound design by Gabo Lizardo
Sly Fennec Productions’ eerily lyrical meditation on youthful angst is a feast for the eyes; and not just because of its attractive young cast. The show’s moody lighting, atmospheric score, fluid set design and abstract video projections combine to turn Eris Evolution’s cabaret space into a dreamlike demimonde in which danger lurks beneath pretty surfaces.
The story begins innocently enough. Laura (Annie Hägg) shares a New York apartment with fellow twenty-something Page (Deya Danielle). The two have been friends since college, and protective Laura can’t believe her brother Ed (Michael Coppola) who she considers a knucklehead, ever succeeded in dating someone as magnificent as Laura. The relationship didn’t last, and of course Laura blames Ed. But he maintains it was Page’s mental health issues that got in the way. While the siblings bicker, Page attempts to cope with the clinical depression that hobbles her effort to transition from bartending to full-time acting. Into this tense atmosphere lopes James (Michael Tyler) a Californian drifter who everyone has heard having noisy sex with upstairs neighbor Karen (Whitney Harris). James’s high cheekbones, lithe torso and rock star hairdo magnetize the women, and his disarmingly casual style helps ingratiate him to the group. What the gang fails to realize, though, is that the tall dark stranger is not merely a self-confessed narcissist, but a homicidal psychopath. Thankfully, James’ acts of ultraviolence aren’t depicted with grisly literalism, but with sly choreography that makes them all the creepier. In the show’s second act, Page tries to make a new life in a new city with a new guy (Derek Stratton). But little signals let her know that her James is on the move again, his seductive darkness is asserting its hold over her once more.
After a compelling first act, the show’s momentum slows a bit as the narrator’s role shifts from discontented Laura to apathetic Page. We can understand some of Page’s ambivalence about James, but at times she sounds less like a judgment-averse millennial than a 90’s style Whateverist. Boredom alone doesn’t seem quite enough of a motivating force to turn an ambitious young woman – even a depressed one – into a killer’s concubine. James, too, comes across a rather lackadaisical monster. He doesn’t seem to get any particular thrill out his diabolical actions, nor has it occurred to him that law enforcement agencies and the families of the victims will come looking for answers at some point. It’s understandable that playwright Sam Kahn didn’t want to resort to the “lethal-cat-and-mouse-game” clichés that populate Hollywood treatments of the subject. But finding some way to up the dramatic stakes would make for a more satisfying denouement.
Nevertheless, Kahn’s sharp dialogue and vibrant characters give the strong, committed cast plenty to work with, and director Roxana Kadyrova nimbly blends the production’s imagistic and narrative elements into a cohesive, memorable whole. Sly Fennec is clearly a company to watch: one whose aesthetic is sure to develop in delightful and astonishing ways.
ULTRAVIOLENCE ran from Mar 12 through March 16, 2019 at Eris Evolution, 167 Graham Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11206. For information and upcoming events check here: https://www.slyfennec.com/