Regional Reviews: St. Louis
The Bothered, A Devised Piece
But we're in the midst of the seventh annual St. Lou Fringe Festival, and it doesn't get much more fresh and vital than that, wherever a "Fringe" pops up. Which leads us to a Fringe offering titled The Bothered, A Devised Piece, a nearly hour-long haunted house drama about two young women, shortly after the death of their mother. Director Josh Douglas developed this fine, full-fledged play from a series of improvisations with his three actresses, for The Rogue Theatre. At lights-up, twin sisters Natalie and Annie are making a perfunctory attempt at cleaning up their childhood home, before selling the property, bad wiring and all.
Things start out scarily enough, with the lights flickering in an attic filled with boxes and junk and an old dress-form that stands like a ghost under a bed sheet. The place looks like it could go up in flames at any moment. Lisa M. Hinrichs is Natalie, and she has the rich, full spectrum of "horror victim" traits in spades. Start with a dollop of Veronica Cartwright (the bereft, screaming lady in Alien) and add in the spiritual vulnerability of Julie Harris (from The Haunting, or The Belle Of Amherst), and then stand back. Sometimes perfect casting itself can be as scary as the channeling of a ghost.
According to formula, Natalie's fraternal twin sister Annie, played by the charming Emily Schneider, must therefore be completely down to earth. And she is, with a husband and daughter and a perfectly secure life of her own. In the opening scene Annie magnanimously deeds that run-down old house over to single-o Natalie. And it seems that all will be well from there on out.
So let's just stop and talk for a moment about modern ventilation systems. They're spooky, right? The vague howling of distant, rumbling air-handlers, off in some hidden-away room, pumping warm or cool breezes, depending on our changeable weather. I've never noticed that particular sound in the Kranzberg Arts Center until now, in the temporarily re-christened Boeing Black Box theatre (thanks to a donation to the Fringe). But the artfully managed silence onstage in The Bothered lays bare a desolate moan.
And ever-so-hesitantly, the lights flicker. A strange, third woman appears (Monica Buschor, as Ida): seemingly young, but with no facial affect. When the lights flicker out completely, and then come back on again, she is closer, again and again. Later, in a silent struggle, two young women will grapple in a creepy strobe-effect, before the final, maddening scenes are played out.
The Bothered, a Devised Piece drew a strong round of applause at the evening show on the first Sunday of St. Lou Fringe. The remaining performance for this perfect little show is Saturday, August 25, 2018, at 1 p.m. For more information and a full schedule of all the final weekend's shows, visit www.stlouisfringe.com.