Reviewed by Lovell Estell III
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
Through October 30
Irish playwright-performer Pat Kinevane returns to the Odyssey Theater with a new piece that explores “life lived on the fringes of society.” Kinevane’s previous works, Forgotten and Silent, were performed at the Odyssey in 2011 and 2012, and with Underneath, the third piece in the trilogy, he brings us a very unconventional ghost story, cleverly directed by Jim Culleton, just in time for Halloween.
The play is set in a graveyard in County Cork, Ireland, evoked with harrowing simplicity on a dark gloomy stage, where sits a black coffin, partially covered in a single sheet of gold drape. When Kinevane emerges, it is with a majestic creepiness: first a hand, and then a writhing figure in black tattered skin and clothing (an unsettling Jolie laide creation by Catherine Condell), with painted eyes and lips. “Ya never know what’s round the corner, do ya? he intones, shortly after.
The story he relates is about life as a young Irish lass who was defaced by a lightning strike, and the ridicule, scorn and rejection she endured over a life time because of her deformity. It’s a purposefully unsubtle testimony about the superficiality of appearances, as well as a depressingly familiar meditation on the extreme value people and society invest in physical attractiveness, and the pain and misery often experienced by those the world deems ugly. Despite the thematic gloom, however, this ghost has an infectious sense of humor.
Kinevane knows how to work the spectators, and with a conversational manner that is immediately disarming, he frequently chats up audience members, referencing (and skewering) such things as the current texting culture, various celebs, fashion chic, and even a television show.
Underneath is indeed a play of moods cloaked in light and shadow. Kinevane performs with a feral intensity, and his narrative artfully blends the prosaic with the poetic. Kinevane, Culleton and Katelan Braymer’s lighting schema is richly atmospheric, as is Denis Clohessy tapestry of music and sound effects.
Note: Kinevane will also perform Silent on October 21 &28 at 8 p.m.
Odyssey Theater, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles; Thurs. 8 p.m., Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., through October 30. (310) 477-2055 ext. 2 or www.OdysseyTheatre.com. Running time: Ninety minutes with no intermission.