Saturday, May 20, 2006

Night Bloomers (Dobama)

Thought provoking ‘NIGHT BLOOMERS’ at DOBAMA

As a crisis counselor I’m aware of the trauma caused by real or perceived tragedies. The results of fires, deaths, threats and natural and man-inspired catastrophes can be psychologically devastating. Psychological distractions such as nightmares, depression, hysteria and fear of personal destruction often result. Add reality to the repeated railing by leaders, such as President Bush stating over and over “9-11, ” “9-11” to reinforce the horror of the attacks on the World Trade Center, and people become primed for upset and fail to have time to heal.

Sarah Morton, the author of ‘NIGHT BLOOMERS’ now in production by Dobama Theatre, imagines our country following a terrorist attack termed “The Incident.” The result is a chilling expose of raw nerves and how calamity affects“survivors.”

In Morton’s story, Lilia, a mature woman, has decided that “The Incident” is not going to stop her from her two passions...traveling and searching for the nocturnal blooming rare persinnium plant. Since public airlines are out of business, she hires Nathan, a private pilot, to assist her in her search. Their adventure involves contact with sky marshals, bandits, border patrolmen, an Avon saleswoman, newlyweds, and a family in search of the daughter they lost.

Nathan, who was assigned to recover debris following “The Incident,” turns out to be debris himself. Tortured, he is devoid of emotions. Devoid until an incident forces him to experience Primal Scream, where, much like others with post-traumatic stress syndrome and/or survivor guilt, Nathan cracks.

The play asks many questions: Can fear insight panic? Can reality be hidden as the ranters and reminders of doom re-enforce their techniques to control others? (Think the political implications of Bush’s campaign to continue to tie all presidential decisions, including taking away individual rights, invasion of privacy, setting up a self proclaimed set of rules which do an end-run around the Constitution.) What drives some people, in spite of the odds, to search out truth and beauty? What happens to an individual when the strong defenses he has set up are confronted by traumatic reality?

Morton’s play, though not always clear in explicit concept, and which waivers off course creating some illogical sequence patterns, is a very strong piece of theatre.

Dobama’s productions, as has been the case in recent history--’GOAT OR, WHO IS SYLVIA’ and ‘A NUMBER’--is quality theatre. Director Eric Schmiedl has paced the piece well, has finely honed his performers, and understands the underlying motivations of the script.

Nicholas Koesters gives his finest performance as the emotionally wounded Nathan. In his final scene, he bares the character’s entire physical and psychological core as he stands center stage, bathed in a harsh white spotlight, and wails as his emotions finally overcome his logical control. It’s worth seeing the play just to experience this theatrical highlight!

Nan Wray performs with her usual excellence as Lilia. The character’s pluck and determinism shine clearly. Courtney Schloss, David Hansen, Samuel Holloway, Rachel Appelbaum and Teresa McDonough are all excellent in a variety of roles.

Scenic designer Russ Broski’s blacktopped world is chilling. Maureen Patterson’s lighting design adds much to the emotional effect as does Richard Ingraham’s sound and music.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Dobama’s production of Sarah Morton’s ‘NIGHT BLOOMERS’ is a scary reminder of what is or could be. Though the script has some flaws, the production values are excellent, making for a performance worth seeing.