The Burning House Group
Review: "3 Parts Dead"
Theater review: '3 Parts Dead': A
dark, personal ghost story
Burning House Group combines
eerie theatrics and gritty, well-realized physicality as three
actors spin an opaque, disturbing tale.
By Graydon Royce,
It's nice to be reminded of theater's power to distort and
deconstruct reality. Not everything needs plot, two acts, a
crisis and a resolution. This fall, Skewed Visions produced
a fine little oddity in "Strange Love" that appealed
to the psyche's eerie touchstones. Now we have another exhibit
-- this one more intended as a personal ghost story than Skewed
Vision's political satire.
"3 Parts Dead," a new work by playwright Alan Berks,
in collaboration with the Burning House Group, opened last
weekend at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage. It is a challenging,
obtuse experience that uses several theatrical conceits to
form a vocabulary built on imagery. Berks captures the dream
abstraction of a metaphysical world and centers it in real-world
Actors Matt Guidry, David Allen Baker and Randal
Berger move through a darkened stage decked with cardboard
boxes, boards, a stepladder, hanging windows and a large chest.
We get a sense of discovering an abandoned house, which we
soon learn is what Guidry's character is doing. A recovering
addict, he's moved into a ramshackle manse that caught his
(unseen) daughter's eye. Baker plays Guidry's brother, who
initially spends his stage time narrating from letters he's
received from his sibling, talking about the house and reliving
Berger is the wild card. A pulsing and enigmatic avatar,
he alternately represents a ghost, a real estate agent and
the manifestation of the addict's demon. Twitching, snorting
and limping in a vivid physicality, he appears to enter the
shadows of Guidry's soul with his vexing presence -- you know,
monkey on the back sort of thing. At least that's my take.
The beauty of this character is that he embodies the dark and
frightening impulses that seem universal but are distinct to
each of us.
Baker has the look of a boiled potato, compared with Guidry's
square jaw and wild eyes. That distinction becomes important
as we come to understand their symbiotic relationship.
Baker is the middle-class, reasonably successful family man
fascinated (repelled?) by his swashbuckling, devil-may-care
brother. Eventually, that duality contributes to a dire conclusion.
Noah Bremer, who has accomplished this kind of strange and
interesting work with Live Action Set, comes over to direct
the three actors. He and his cast construct a gritty, rigorous
physicality. Guidry "and the company" are credited
for a lighting design that becomes another character -- so
well-articulated that it creates illusion.
There's a bit of self-indulgence along the way, but isn't
that often an issue in today's theater? This is a dark little
tale worth an 80-minute investment.