1140 N. Flagler Drive
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304
Performing at Thinking Cap Theatre (Mar 8 - Mar 31)
Runtime: 1 Hour 20 Minutes
They are a sign of the visceral –– literally –– suffering to come, a primal scream on the ache of being alive.
And Sartre’s famous line, hell is other people, is confirmed in Sarah Kane’s astonishing, disturbing take on love. The play premiered just a year before the British playwright committed suicide in 1999 at age 28.
Directed by Nicole Stodard, this could be the most bleak, provocative and intensely poetic 80 minutes of theater in recent memory. With few exceptions, the seven-member cast is not squeamish about taking on the play’s graphic sex, nudity and gore (artfully suggested in a way that doesn’t reduce its gruesomeness), even when we might be.
The sanitorium-cum-torture chamber setting is overseen by Tinker, a character described by Kane’s friend and fellow playwright Mark Ravenhill as “part Prospero, part Nazi commandant.” Played with chilling brutality and flashes of pathos by local theater veteran Jim Gibbons, he’s more the latter, brandishing a progressively more terrifying series of sharp objects.
More cutting, though, is the language of love. The characters seduce each other with “I won’t ever lie to you” and “I love you as you are” and “I’ll be whatever you need,” soon enough becoming “if I’d known” and “how dare you leave me like this.” Here relationships are a nasty business, belied, and maybe only made palatable, by those platitudes.
The dissonance is captured affectingly when siblings/lovers Grace and Graham (Christina Jolie Breza and Daniel Nieves) lean on one another and sing, off-key, You Are My Sunshine. It’s one of the many moments played skillfully by the talented cast; another is when Graham and Robin (Robert Alter), a cowering “patient” besotted by Grace and forced to endure many indignities, quiz Grace on an ex-lover. Speaking in one voice, their words couldn’t be more antithetical.
Suffering the most spectacularly are Rod and Carl (Andy Herrmann and John Robert Warren, respectively), who start out a sunny couple talking past each other: “Don’t trust me,” Rod begs Carl, who insists, “I do.” They might as well say to us, aren’t we asking to be tortured? Haven’t we created our prison? How can anyone be surprised when we end up not transformed, but mutilated by love?
The coarser fantasy of love/lust is laid bare in Tinker’s visits to a peep show dancer, nicely played by Desiree Mora, who not incidentally may be the most honest character and gives Tinker a moment of redemption and humanity.
Grace says of her ex, “He bought me a box of chocolates and tried to strangle me,” but she’s passionless.
That, finally, may be the worst cut. Love manifests in ways that are depraved, demoralizing or just dumb –– but do we want a life cleansed of that exquisite pain? This revelatory play, which can be seen through so many prisms, will really, really make you wonder.
Thinking Cap Theatre proudly presents the Florida premiere of CLEANSED, Sarah Kane's deeply poetic, intensely provocative 1998 drama about the limits of love. How far would you go to feel whole again after losing someone you love? How far would you go to form a lasting union with your lover? How far would you go to learn something that threatened to undo you? Join us for a night of emotionally arresting contemporary theatre with a classical sensibility, a theatre experience guaranteed to leave you with mental and physical goose bumps.
Since its founding in 2010, Thinking Cap Theatre has brought a slice of NYC's downtown theatre scene to downtown Fort Lauderdale. Thinking Cap has made a name for itself locally and nationally for tackling challenging works. The company's artistic director Nicole Stodard was named Best Director by the New Times in 2012.
Thinking Cap is devoted to experimental, provocative, and socially-conscious work. We program plays that tell compelling stories in fresh and surprising ways. Thinking Cap also aims to engage with works that treat a range of identities more accurately reflective of today's society; to dismantle norms and stereotypes through non-reactionary, honest means; and to present historical works that have rarely or never seen the light of the stage.