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Interviews — Finn in the Underworld

September 24th, 2009 No comments

I recently completed a series of interviews with the director and cast of convergence-continuum’s upcoming production of Jordan Harrison’s Finn in the Underworld: a “psychosexual gothic horror” story, just in time for Halloween.

Please take some time and check them out:

Finn in the Underworld

September 16th, 2009 No comments

I’m pretty excited about the upcoming production at convergence-continuum. A few years ago I went over to see Act a Lady by Jordan Harrison which was an hilarious romp. So, this next piece by Harrison is to be anticipated, too. However, this one is not a funny romp. In fact, it is the exact opposite: dark, brooding, and sinister.

Finn in the Underworld at convergence-continuum

Finn in the Underworld at convergence-continuum

Clyde Simon, the artistic director for convergence, is pretty careful in laying out the season–placing comedic hits like Charles Mee’s Big Love right in the midst of summer to catch that breezy, sunny disposition that keeps us all optimistic, happy, and alive; but coming right back as the weather changes over to windy, overcast, and cooling to stoke our more fearful and depressed autumnal dispositions. Finn in the Underworld is the perfect direction, as Lucy Bredeson-Smith (who plays Gwen in the play) points out, for Halloween.

I recently sat down and interviewed the cast and director of the upcoming production, so I went to Playscripts and read much of the play that they have freely available online: Then, when I got to The Liminis, as I waited while they all ran tech, I finished up the play with the scripts that were laying about on the set. I was not disappointed.

It was initially a strange sensation, reading the play. I am used to finding books through Google Books, reading happily along, and then encountering pages missing from the middle of the book–Google’s meagre concession to copyright concerns. This extraction of pages leads to a choppy reading experience. So, as I read Finn in the Underworld I was suddenly greeted by jumps in the script that sent me looking for page numbers to make sure that pages weren’t missing…that Playscripts hadn’t done the same thing. They hadn’t. Harrison’s script plays with jumps in time and it caught me off guard.

The jumps in time are what most attracts me to the play. It is fascinating to see an encounter at 7:35 pm only to (later on) pick up the thread of what happened earlier at 2:00 in the afternoon. The jumping fills in the details on events in strange ways, creating connections that go different directions in time and create a curiously timeless, eerie feeling…as if one were, I don’t know, in Hades? I was very much reminded of Fefu and Her Friends by Fornes which creates a similar feeling through the four mobile scenes in the mid-section of the play. There is something strangely vibrant about seeing scenes out of order and then connecting pieces of information from one place back to another. Harrison’s play handles this very competently and it creates a spine-tingling experience.

Harrison has described his play as a ‘psychosexual gothic horror story,’ which is an apt description, as there are elements of all of this in the play. Gothic stories, especially stories with horror elements, remind me of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights–the mad woman in the attic or ghosts on the moors. But the elements are present here, too: a dark house, an unexplained death, a family mystery that spans generations, and, very like the tales by the Bronte sisters, a jagged-love that is doomed from the start. Appropriately, Harrison quotes Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House at the outset of his play: “An evil old house, the kind some people call “haunted”, is like an undiscovered country waiting to be explored.”

For those of you who want a surprise, go and see this play! It will deliver. For those of you who want to see the play, but don’t mind having your surprise compromised, spoilers follow.

Warning: Spoiler Alert — What follows reveals plot, story, and will ruin your fun.

The quote from Hill House is more than just support for the Gothic horror feel of the piece. Other than the way Harrison plays with time and play structure, the one event that threw me the most was the revelation that Carver Bishop was already dead: thus putting the ghost element squarely at the center of the horror story. But, this is not nearly enough. Harrison, like Jackson, continues, with a house that is itself alive and that wishes to consume all of those within its walls, to keep the men and women forever, tucked inside of some unearthly plane of semi-existence.

This plane is where the second act of Harrison’s play occurs, and very like the Hades mentioned briefly above, the action that transpires is very Greek in its notion of the Underworld: very Greek because the river Lethe, which flows through Hades, erases the memories of the dead who drink from it. As with those poor dead folk in Hades, so it is with all the characters in the play who are consumed by the house–and as it no doubt is for those consumed by family grief or a tragic history–memory becomes questionable, personal history is drowned or left in a murky twilight, and logic begins to run in circles. For me, this last part of Harrison’s play is the most disturbing. It is oppressive, suffocating, and claustrophobic–and it is by no means an accident that it transpires within the confines of bomb shelter.

This play runs through October 17 at convergence and I can hardly wait to see it.

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