CLIFFHOUSE

Posted: August 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

Take Sartre’s “No Exit,” cross it with Michael Cristofer’s “The Shadow Box,” set it in a luxury resort, and you will find yourself at “Cliffhouse,” the new production by that “Fearless, Funny, and Female” theatre company, Macha Monkey, now playing at the Richard Hugo House on Capitol Hill.

The show stars: Vincent Delany as “Cliff,” the resort’s host; Kristina Sutherland as “Lana,” a writer who has come to the resort to recuperate; Meaghan Halverson as “Glorie,” a devout believer in her faith; and Troy Lund as “West,” a rock-climbing enthusiast struggling with the accidental death of his best friend.

Written by local playwright, Allison Gregory, who also resides in Austin, Texas, and directed by Meghan Arnette, “Cliff House” is a sometimes humorous, sometimes touching drama about life and death and the struggle to accept both.

By and large, this is a well-executed and engaging show enhanced by a talented ensemble of actors. Delaney and Sutherland are particularly strong in their roles, though the entire cast does an excellent job. At times, Halverson comes across as a bit too young in her portrayal of “Glorie,” seeming more like a 12 or 13 year old rather than someone who would be at a “resort” on her own, but maybe that was the intention. (And yes, the quotation marks around “resort” are intentional.)

In terms of the dramaturgy, the play’s exposition does take a little too long to build. If I remember correctly, it isn’t until about 30 minutes into the play that we are clued in as to what the “Cliffhouse” really is. And it is a bit of a pastiche of the work of Sartre and Cristofer, which I mentioned above; but it does have some beautifully written, poetic language and imagery, and certainly deals with substantive themes and complex characters.  The ending is a bit confusing and ambiguous, but not to the show’s detriment.

As for the staging, scenic designer, Robin Macartney, keeps things relatively minimalist. The set consists primarily of slightly raised platforms to etch out the parameters of the resort, and is dominated by a strangely constructed climbing wall on stage right. I would say that functionality, as opposed to spectacularity, is the primary goal of the design.

Luckily, the playwright and the company resist the temptation to turn this show into a weep fest, and it ultimately ends on a relatively uplifting note. It’s not “All’s Well that Ends Well,” but it’s not “Hamlet,” either, where everybody dies.

“Cliffhouse “ is now playing through March 30th at The Richard Hugo House. For tickets,  see: Cliffhouse.brownpapertickets.com183580-250

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