October 25, 2014
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Wilbury’s x-rated ‘Blasted’ seeks to shock

Very little in the theatre world shocks me these days.

However, Wilbury Theatre’s production of Sarah Kane’s “Blasted” is about as shocking a play as you will see on any stage.

Kane, who director Josh Short said was “misunderstood by many in her time,” will still be misunderstood by many today.

The playwright chose to get her audience’s attention through the depiction of violence, sex, rape, cannibalism and even bloody eyes popping out of a person’s head.

To some, this may be the work of a talented writer trying to send her anti-violence message via shockwaves. To others, she may come across as a disturbed mind. She did commit suicide at age 28.

The saving grace is the outstanding acting by its cast of three.

Boston actor Alexander Cook, who played Dr. Zubritsky in Ocean State Theatre Company’s “Fools” last year, is an intense presence on stage, both verbally and physically. Cook plays Ian, the British journalist who holes up in a seedy foreign hotel with a young, equally disturbed woman. Outside and inside there’s a war going on. Ian is dying from drinking too much gin and/or smoking too many cigarettes. Amber Kelly, a talented Chicago-based actress who created site-specific theatre in Rhode Island a few years ago, plays Cate, a disturbed, confused woman subject to seizures, stuttering and mood swings. Why she ever followed this lecherous, mad man to the hotel is beyond me. Is she a sexual tease, or is she just confused?

Joan Belanger Peralta, a founding member of Wilbury, plays a savage soldier who enters their lives and hotel room and brings the sadistic violence to extremes. These are not nice people, and it is difficult to care for any of them.

Kane, in depicting sadism, seems to be saying that the violence between two people parallels the violence in the world and shows it in disturbing ways that may be too much for some people.

So be warned, this is not a play for everyone. With my over 40 years of reviewing theatre, I have never seen a production so graphic and disturbing.

You not only need to be very open-minded to sit through the 90-minute, one-act play, you need to be physically fit to climb the three sets of steep stairs to the balcony of the old Trinity Church theatre, where the action is played out in a long stretch of space. Many scenes take place on a bed in front of the audience, while the hotel door is at the far end. All this causes some serious sight line problems.

“Blasted” is at Wilbury Theatre, 393 Broad St. in Providence, through April 5. For more information go to www.thewilburygroup.

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