“Are you brave enough?” is the tagline on the advertising for Luna Theater Company’s production of BLASTED by Sarah Kane, currently running at Upstairs @ The Adrienne. On its face, that is a very fair question. BLASTED is very graphic and disturbing material, with scenes of sexual abuse, rape, physical violence and more. Playwright Sarah Kane’s plays deal with themes of redemptive love, sexual desire, pain, torture and death. Her plays are examples of the In-Yer-Face style of theatre, an aptly-named style that breaks all conventions of traditional theatre.
Ex-lovers Ian (John Jezior) and Cate (Haley McCormick) come to an upscale hotel in (what is suggested to be) Northern England. Ian, a Welshman with a drinking problem and cancer of the lungs, is trying to seduce Cate, who is a bit simple-minded. Their discussions are alternately sweet and terrible, with Ian spouting racist and misogynistic comments. The backdrop of the show, a city ravaged by war, is enforced by the entrance of a hardened soldier (Jerry Rudasill), whose descriptions of rape, torture and dismemberment escalate into onstage violence. There is much more to the plot and storyline, but in fairness to you all and to the production, my description will end here.
At first glance, BLASTED is graphic, raw and troubling. The performances of the actors are unfiltered, bringing the audience into their horrifying world. This is certainly not a play for everyone. However, for those who can handle the material, it is a tribute to the performances and direction that the show is so troubling. Each of the actors holds nothing back…their performances are intense, consistent and raw. The scenes of sex and violence are blocked to protect the audience (and kudos to director Gregory Scott Campbell for a terrific job there!) but the horrors each of the characters experience is still out there and visible. As the play progresses and the characters become more primal, it’s very difficult to watch…but watch we do, as we are almost forced to see where things go. Still, underlying it all is the relationship between Ian and Cate…dysfunctional to be sure, yet with some genuine caring. The paradox of all of this makes the production what it is…hard to watch, yet impossible to look away.
BLASTED runs through March 5. For those of you who can put aside your fears and prejudices, this is a night that will affect you deeply. But be warned…this is NOT a show for the sensitive. Caution: no one under 18 will be admitted.
by Sarah Kane
Directed by Gregory Scott Campbell
February 10-26, 2011
Luna Theater Company
UPstairs @ The Adrienne
2030 Sansom Street
Philadelphia PA 19103