By Show and Tell
By Bree Davies
By Bree Davies
By Cory Casciato
By Emilie Johnson
By Robin Edwards
By Bree Davis
By Josiah M. Hesse
For a while, Josie can protect Lily from the Skriker. She's grief-hardened and more cynical than her friend. But yearning empowers the creature, and who can refrain from yearning for long?
Lily gives birth. There are some beautiful moments here as she exclaims over the sheer miraculousness of her baby's fingers. Then Josie tries to convince Lily that the child's a changeling who must be burned. "I wish Josie wasn't mad," cries Lily. Bingo, Josie's sane. But she's grieving so desperately over her murdered child that Lily retracts her wish. With a Skriker lurking around, this much wishing is dangerous.
The action of The Skriker, like its language, is filled with echoes of fairy tale and myth. Lily is nice to the Skriker, and as a reward, coins fall from her mouth with every word she speaks. By contrast, frosty Josie is made to spit toads. Like Persephone, Josie descends into the underworld and is told that if she eats or drinks anything, she can never return home. At one point, the Skriker makes an oblique reference to the old Mother Goose rhyme "Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clemens." Later, when we see Lily moving across the stage with a candle, we supply the nursery rhyme's final lines: "Here comes a candle to light you to bed. Here comes a chopper to chop off your head."
Tresselt has staged a skilled and evocative production, a kind of ever-changing and mesmerizing freak show in which a workman with a bucket isn't really a workman, a middle-aged woman wanders through the wasteland with a cocktail glass in her hand, the dead speak, and all kinds of creatures loiter in the shadows, waiting for us to stumble. Emily Paton Davies is a convincing and commonsensical Josie; Megan Meek's performance as Lily is a little more diffuse, and she's tripped up now and then by the English accent. It's Mare Trevathan Philpott's artistry and intelligence as the Skriker, however, that galvanize. She inhabits each of the creature's various manifestations body and soul. Despite the endless flow of changes, there's no muddiness in Philpott's characterization; every impulse is clear. It was a terrific performance on opening night, and I imagine it's even more so now that Philpott has a few performances under her belt.
I left the theater feeling profoundly thoughtful, wanting to know more, to read the script and see how the language held up, to return for a second viewing. The Skriker is brave, mind-bending theater, the kind we don't see often enough.