What’s up Annex? After a brief hiatus, this is the opener for a renewed season that sounds pretty awesome. Evan Moritz took the stage for the curtain speech and did the obligatory announcements but piqued my interest with their upcoming endeavors. Life? Or Theater? Is a music/art/theater work that is next on the itinerary, and then an Afro-Punk Ballet collaboration with Afro House- you now have my interest. Annex has always left its mark on Baltimore with quirky edgy new-wave theater productions and these sound right for the picking!
Apparently, Dark World Destruction 1 was staged through Annex in 2010. I did not partake of that encounter. Perhaps if I had, this would have been a little easier to follow- I mostly surface comprehended the plotline, but there was a lot of unnecessary jargon for the sake of making it sci-fi-ish when it really was just odd.
Our hero, Derek (also the playwright playing himself), begins with a flashback sequence to his coming of age where he received his other-worldly powers. Then the play flashes to the future, 2056, where a dark shadow is threatening to take over. It has captured the mind of the president, and several of Derek’s friends, can Derek stop it in time, or will it destroy the whole universe?
As the play began, it was hard to tell what to think. The space is bare with exceedingly minimal props. The backdrop are felt cut-out curtains that the actors keep pulling to offer a context for the setting. The opening fight sequence is slow and clumsy, making me wonder if it was meant to be serious, or meant to be comical? I took the entire evening in the grain of a B-movie. It seemed to be funny to me, but my friend and I often felt like we were the only ones laughing and wondered if we were being inappropriate…(still unclear on this one, but it wouldn’t be the first time we were the asses).
The supporting cast are a round-up of well-known Annex and Baltimore thespians that know how to handle the stage. The biggest reason to see this show is hands-down Dominic Gladden. His portrayal of “the shadow” with changing voices, teeth clenching guttural disgust, and general bad-guy vibe is captivating. He owns every scene he appears in- even if he is wearing glasses that look slightly more phallic than menacing.
Jacob Zabawa is more animated as the dark Derek than the real Derek ever is. His facial animation and bizarre bathrobe clench his victory as pretty unmistakable. Jacob has performed in several Annex productions previously and his vibrancy on stage always shines through. Zipporah Brown as Tiffany is a vivacious addition who brings some comedic timing and support. Nina Kearin doubles as Derek’s love interest and a PC, but it wasn’t clear to me that she was a robot at first. Shadow had besieged the minds of Derek’s friends and they were all acting robotic and stiff. The only costume indication of her un-human status were sunglasses (noted on shadow too). Caroline Preziosi as the spirit Coromas acts as the guiding goddess figure in the hero literary troupe. She handles the stresses with grace and offers martyr status when required. Martin Kasey plays a variety of characters, most notably a rather excited Scientist who tends to take his torture a little too seriously.
Derek Carr appears as himself in this rendition, and he was just not the best pick. He mumbled most of his lines with little to no inflection making it almost impossible to hear over the musical score provided by sound designer David Crandall. Derek often missed lines and instead of staying in the moment, tried to redact and correct and completely lost the grain of the play. For a show that is hard to follow and a bit convoluted to begin with, a lead with a little more acting experience and range of emotion might have made this a little more dynamic. His costume was well-done and the jacket set him apart from all the other characters. Dominic’s white suit though, niiicceee.
Costuming is credited to Susan MacCorkle and my take of the future (from this production) is a lot of sleep/loungewear as everyday wear, a lack of crotches in pants (there was a lot of MC hammer going on) and bizarre bathrobes. Annex is known for its quirky perks, but I am not sure the aesthetic of the curtains, the costumes, and the play all came together to make a cohesive final product.
SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO? Annex is a quirky, beat-of-their-own-drummer theater, so it is awesome to have them back on the Baltimore scene. I am not sure this is the comeback performance I was expecting. I am looking forward to upcoming shows at Annex but this one left me with more questions than answers and an uneasy feeling. I thought it was a pretty funny B-level anime-inspired flick, or I just misunderstood the whole thing. (I)
Running Time one hour with no intermission. At Annex Theater through April 8th.
Running time one hour with no intermission. At Annex Theater through April 8th.