Thursday, April 24, 2008

NewCity and Chicago Reader Reviews - The Skriker

Tip of the Week

Monica Westin

" Caryl Churchill plays—always intensely verbal, Surrealist and heavy on choreography—can easily become trainwrecks, but GreyZelda’s production of one of her most difficult and strangest remains afloat, often inspiringly and always coherently—no small feat. The success of this "Skriker," a series of nightmarish scenes following a terrifying shapeshifter and her human victims, is due in large part to Lisa Wilson’s brilliant inhabiting of the title character. She remains magnetic and articulate, even as she spouts out verse after verse of Churchill’s sometimes almost incoherent monologues. The other actors keep up, and the show feels fresh in its exploration of gender, horror and dream, not least of all because of its strong interactive element; making audiences squirm in true Brechtian fashion, actors consistently break down the fourth wall in what could otherwise be an estranging production. The set and costumes are a bit uninspired, relying too heavily on tropes from Halloween costumes, but once the lines begin, it hardly matters."

And Now for Something Completely Different ....

THE SKRIKER "Caryl Churchill's 1994 play isn't easy going. It follows a "shapeshifter and death portent" bent on stealing the newborn child of teen mother Lily while avoiding the sometimes violent efforts of Lily's mentally-ill friend Josie to protect the baby. The creature says she's out to avenge the underworld, which has been left to wither and starve. But Churchill's multiply fractured narrative and Joycean wordplay communicate only a swirl of potentially provocative ideas that never realize their dramatic potential. Director Rebecca Zellar focuses most of her ensemble's energy on creating an underworld of childlike malevolence--part punk after-hours club, part dyspeptic kindergarten class. But even with a smart, committed cast, this GreyZelda Theatre Group production is comprehensible only in fits and starts." --Justin Hayford

A Note from the Director ... It's a Tomayto/Tomahto type of play ... if you like your theatre easy and don't want to put in any brain work, then this probably isn't the show for you. We don't hand you all of the answers on a platter. When one of the college students on Saturday basically said, "I don't get it. What am I supposed to walk away with? How am I supposed to apply any of this to my life?", I turned the question around on him and asked back, "Well ... what did you get from the images, from your initial instincts and remembrances of the show?" He had a hard time answering. One of our cast members afterwards said, "We should have just asked him if he believed in faeries," which would have been a much better answer. I feel our show is like taking a walk through the Art Institute ... some pieces are pretty easy to figure out, but some take a little bit more of abstract thinking and impulsive thought to begin the process of "figuring it out." That's what The Skriker's like, in my opinion. I've noticed that the reviews we've received so far are pretty split down the middle ... some people embrace the subtleties and humor of Churchill's words; some find it too "Joycean", so ... it's really a taste thing. It's definitely not a walk in the park. Thank goodness.


Mikayla said...

Hi Rebecca,

I went to see the show last night, and just wanted to drop a line to say I enjoyed it. I'm managing director of Tantalus Theatre Group, and we like our theatre difficult too. Way to fight the good fight! I'm currently writing a show we're going to put up in September about faerie; INTERFERENCE. Good research!

I was curious - did you decide to do the Skriker after you got pregnant or was it a coincidence? Did being pregnant affect how you approached the show?

GreyZelda Land said...

Thanks, Mikayla! I've heard nothing but excellent things about Tantalus, so I'm really happy that you enjoyed it. I look forward to Interference!

We decided to do The Skriker last fall and didn't find out I was pregnant until January when we were opening A View from the Bridge. I was a little worried about how I would handle everything because the first trimester was exhausting and we had a couple of scares, so I was really looking to create a stress-free, relaxed, creative environment with our cast. I've forced myself to remain calm throughout the process, but I never had a chance to get worked up because this cast has been a joy to work with and they've come into the process with open minds, good humor and an intensity to explore the Underworld just as much as I do. One of the major things I wanted to accomplish with this show was a sense of fun, pride and commitment from the group working with us and we have achieved that tenfold.

So ... my approach this time around was very Zen, I guess you could say. We were all very much in the moment and wanted to have a peaceful, intelligent and memorable experience. And, I think if you're dealing with the realm of Faerie, there's no other way to be or who knows what might happen. =)