by Mary Shen Barnidge
"You can hear their eerie cries as you climb the stairs at Angel Island's loft space, and if you linger in the lobby before taking your seats, you might see winged fairies fluttering at the windows. Inside the auditorium, you will find yourself confronted by a swarm of grotesque tricksters from Celtic/Saxon myth—ogres, brownies, kelpies, bogles, ghosts, ghoulies, long-legged beasties and other creatures you wouldn't want to meet in the dark. But that's before we're introduced to the queen of them all, the Skriker, who speaks in a curious echolalic-associative idiom ( calling someone a “toxic-waste-paper-basket case”, for example ) and who greets us by exhibiting the leftovers from her most recent meal of stolen infant.
For most theater companies, a setting such as that invoked by English playwright Caryl Churchill's celebration of her national folklore would constitute an invitation to dazzle us with high-tech fantasy at the expense of the story. Not so this GreyZelda Theatre Group production, whose director, Rebecca Zellar, keeps the scale comfortably life-sized. Oh, Jeff Semmerling's masks, Tomas Medina's prestidigital instruction and Joseph Ravens' movement design for the athletic ensemble supply the requisite menace associated with apparitions stalking their human prey. But always at the center of the action are the two unwary mortals seduced by the shape-shifting Skriker, who assumes the guise of a street-beggar, orphan child or leather-jacketed butch as easily as she bewitches people into spitting money—or frogs.
Immersion in this dramatic universe for almost two intermissionless hours could overwhelm an audience's suspension of disbelief, but for the copious assistance offered, not only by the ingenious spectacle employing an array of narrative arcs ( note the progress of the red-slippered dancer, or the humble janitor-boy, over the evening's duration ) , but the tightly focused performances of Kelly Yacono and Kathryn Daniels as ambivalent young mothers targeted by kidnappers from a literal Underworld. The tour de force in this ambitious project, however, is Lisa Wilson's portrayal of the top-ranked Weird Sister herself. In a role that could have come off like a Karen Finley-wannabe afflicted with the pip, Wilson remains the most charming and congenial of hostesses as she guides us on our tour of twilight realms too often ignored since the proliferation of intimate brightly lit playhouses put an end to shivery Things That Go Bump In The Night."