Note: this article was also published on Neon Tommy.
Recall, written by Eliza Clark; produced by The Visceral Company: seen March 31, 2014.
What would you do to be loved? What lengths would you go? And how far would you go to protect your children? These questions are explored in the LA premiere of Recall, written by Eliza Clark and directed by Dan Spurgeon, playing at The Visceral Company.
Described as being set in an American dystopia where the government monitors and ‘recalls’ teenagers prone to violent behavior, that description just barely scratches the surface of the complex plot. It opens on a dull grey motel room, where we see Justine (Karen Nicole) blandly watching television as her daughter Lucy (Madeline Bertani) is cleaning something out of the rug — something that looks a bit like blood. A knock on the door has the two running to a safe house, run by David (Mark Souza), who is — like the mother and daughter themselves — not all that he appears to be.
The plot just gets more and more complex, and more and more terrifying, as it progresses. Lucy becomes friends with Quinn (Kevin Grossman) and a doctor, Charlotte (Lara Fisher), enters the mix. “Recall” is the type of show you almost need a second viewing of to be able to understand it all, and ends so abruptly that it almost feels like an intermission.
The set design, by Chris Bell, deserves a mention, as the back wall opens to reveal a second space used throughout the production, adding a sense of distance and attention at the same time. And while most theater companies use fake guns when they should use something more realistic, the decision to use a real prop gun (with real blanks) in such a small space is a bit overwhelming, as the next scene with the gun gets totally upstaged by the possibility of it happening again.
The production is creepy at times, creepy in the same way the character of Wednesday Addams is creepy, and Bertani plays a child on the edge of violence (with stares that are ’empty’) extremely well. Souza also does an excellent job, and is the strongest on stage as his character is developed before our eyes. He seems to be the one ‘normal’ character in the play, but I won’t go further into how I intentionally use the word ‘seems’ so as to not to spoil the plot.
Nicole’s role as mother is a bit harder to sparse, as most of her performance is flat — very flat. She doesn’t seem to know what to do with her hands, and shuffles through most of the performance. Even when she is supposed to be angry, the anger is so calm it seems off. However, she comes alive in the last couple of scenes, and you can’t help but wonder if that flatness is a directorial choice that is somehow reflective of how scared she is of her own child.
“There has to be consequences, or the world doesn’t make sense.” So says one of the characters near the end, and this play is all about avoiding consequences. Recall is a show to make you think, and lends itself to multiple interpretations. Does the show make sense? I’m not quite sure myself, and that’s one of the reasons I enjoyed it. We all want to be loved, after all. It’s just a matter of what you will do to get that love that matters.
The Visceral Company’s production of Recall is playing through May 4 at the Lex Theatre in Hollywood (6760 Lexington Ave). Tickets are $25. For more information, visit The Visceral Company’s website.