British playwright Caryl Churchill pushes the limits of theatre in her epic theater plays, of which, her 1994, The Skriker, is a prime example. Churchill’s plays require loads of patience and strong heart. I find her work most exasperating and somewhat agonizing yet I feel compelled to see all her plays. The Skriker, directed with creativity by Rebecca Zellar, is too long, too dense and too vague—yet it intoxicates me.
The show contains terrific work from the dozen fairies from the underworld and their leader, The Skriker (Lisa Wilson). She is a demonic shape-shifting fairy who covets a child. Josie (Kathryn Daniels) is in a psycho ward because she killed her baby. The Skriker, constantly changing forms, wants her sister Lily (Kelly Yacono) to give her baby to her once she gives birth. I think? Understanding a Churchill play is no easy task!
After a long stream-of-conscious monologue filled with gibberish and rhyming wordplay, the action erupts into many self contained scenes filled with eerie movements. The fairies crawl, saunter, dance and grope around the stage dressed in unique outfits with some wearing masks, some more animal than human. We hear this group comment through moans and groans to what The Skriker does. This marvelous ensemble works hard to give special characteristics to their beings with crafty body movements, scary, demon-like gestures and sounds.
Lisa Wilson, as The Skriker, propels the action as the evil demonic spirit leader bent on getting Lily’s new born. Kelly Yacono, as Lily, and Kathyn Daniels, as Josie, are effective as the sisters who cross the line into the underworld.
Kudos to Director Rebecca Zellar for the amazing stagecraft exhibited by her cast of fairies. Their costumes, movements and disciplined characterizations gave this show a lively and unpredictable element that was engaging. We never know what will happen next. The dozen fairies’ performances alone make this show worth seeing.
Churchill’s use of language pushes her works into a Brechtian style absurdist play. Many theatre patrons will find this play troubling while others will admire the creativity and craft of The Grey Zelda production. I usually end up finding Churchill’s plays irritating as I did this one but I’m glad I witnessed this provocative play. The production values are terrific.