Logan Fringe Arts Space: Upstairs

Remaining Performance (tickets available here):

Saturday, July 25 at 7:00 p.m.

They say: At the height of the Vietnam War, Lori’s brother dodges the draft and her boyfriend enlists. Left alone, she disappears into her imagination. Seduced by the comfort of her hallucinations, Lori risks giving over to her fantasy forever.

Joseph’s Take: In an interview with Gene Siskel, the French film director François Truffaut  famously said, “Every film about war ends up being pro-war.” The depiction of violent conflict on the screen excites our senses. It confounds moral reasoning. As American Sniper recently reminded our nation, it can also excite the box office and inflame the cultural dialogue.

Theater, meanwhile, owns the repercussions on the homefront. In Domestic Animals, Lori (Christine Callsen) watches her brother skip town to beat the draft and her lover flung across the world to fight in Vietnam. Caged in a mental hospital, she struggles to process losing too much, too fast.

Under Linda Lombardi’s careful direction, Callsen delivers specific work while straddling being disturbed and increasingly disturbing to the hospital staff. Especially when combined with Andrew Keller as a nurse, the two find humor in the tragic as Loria inches toward coming to grips with what happened. Jeremy Hunter has an intriguing duet as the missing-in-action soldier and the hospital janitor who helps Lori navigate her current predicament. I wanted him to have more screen time, especially as the lover Lori lost, to understand just what had been sacrificed.

Hunter and Keller are on top of their beats and leverage the theater-in-the-round to seamlessly orbit Lori’s consciousness. The sharp set and lighting design from Christopher Annas-Lee finely evokes the confined wilderness in the writing. Domestic Animals is the best use yet I’ve seen of the Upstairs theater at the Logan Fringe Arts Space.

Playwright Jennifer Faletto provided a script that’s lean and lingering. There’s an alluring contrast between the sterile mental hospital and the untamed American wilderness that calls to Lori and her brother. The play is interested in adventures, foreign and domestic and intimate, and the sadness of the work creeps up on you. While there are no whistling bullets and no explosions, there’s a fight worth fighting in Domestic Animals.

See it if: You love a well-executed psychological drama.

Skip it if: You prefer tanks to trees.

Handout photo courtesy of Linda Lombardi