Play: One Extraordinary Darkness
Group: OnSite Theatre Company
Venue: The Green Center, 8025 Blackberry Avenue
Dates: October 30, 31
Tickets: $20; contact 314-686-0062 or www.onsitetheatre.org
Story: Despite their name, nothing is particularly translucent in the Clearwater family. Father Clarence, long ago dispatched from the college where he taught physics and religion, spends his time in 1934 delving into the mysteries of “dark matter.” He’s assisted in these endeavors by his son Emet, whom Clarence believes has died and returned in some ethereal state. Emet does have the ability to forecast an individual’s date and nature of death, for what it’s worth. Daughter Faye enjoys masquerading as a man and, in general, tormenting her father and her stepmother Lillian, a former actress with a penchant for narcolepsy, feigned or otherwise.
Now, it’s time for a brave new experiment by Clarence for his “students,” who may or may not be present in the family home. Is Clarence absent-minded, insane or a scientific genius? Is Emet dead or not? Is Lillian able to separate fact from fiction? Is Faye comfortable with the family dynamic? Stay tuned.
Highlights: OnSite Theatre Company, which specializes in site-specific presentations, dabbles with the supernatural in this world premiere effort by Elizabeth Birkenmeier written specifically for performances at The Green Center. Reputedly haunted, The Green Center is a University City-based arts and environmental organization dedicated to helping people understand the natural world. For One Extraordinary Darkness, the playwright and her cast take their audience throughout the house as well as a garage and a greenhouse situated on The Green Center grounds.
Just a little more than an hour long, Birkenmeier’s work is a tantalizing and tasty treat for Halloween, even if it borrows ideas directly from two episodes of The X Files, one that dealt with black matter and another that focused on a man who could predict death. Even so, Birkenmeier’s approach is fresh and appealing, and made all the more ingratiating by Bill Whitaker’s crisp and clever direction of an engaging cast. Kudos go as well to stage manager Justin Rincker for smoothly handling the challenging logistics.
Other Info: The quartet of characters are played delightfully by Joe Hanrahan as Clarence, Margeau Baue Steinau as Lillian, Robert Birkenmeier as Emet and Adina Talve Goodman as Faye. Each brings a whimsical quality to his/her performance that richly taps into the fertile script and welcomes interplay as well as introspection by audience members. Beneath the pseudo-science and crackpot theories flows a strong undercurrent of familial devotion that weathers the stormy vagaries of life.
Above all, One Extraordinary Darkness succeeds because it follows the tried and true dictum of the best ghost stories: Making the unbelievable ever so believable by the sheer will of its characters.
Rating: A 5 on a scale of 1-to-5.