Dismantling a man’s psyche to uncover the truth
|Idle Muse Theatre presents|
Review by Katy Walsh
I’ve been to the Holocaust Museum in DC. The experience is mind-blowing and imperative. This tribute to the atrocity of humankind is made personal with victim’s actual stories. At the beginning of the tour, you are assigned a person’s name and at the end you find out your/their fate. The history lesson becomes powerfully experiential.
Idle Muse Theatre presents The Monument. Stetko is about to be executed for killing and raping 23 women. Mejra is intervening. She gives him a choice. He can fry in the chair or be released to her custody. If he comes with her, Stetko must obey her every command. Does he want certain death or unknown life? Stetko chooses Mejra. And she is about to make him suffer for all his decisions. The Monument dismantles a man’s psyche to construct the truth.
Playwright Colleen Wagner wrote a compelling drama. Although the over-arching story is unforgettable, some of the mechanics don’t quite connect. The biggest, unanswered question is how can Mejra take Stetko off death row? But putting those unanswered logistics aside, this show is all about persecution and hate. Under the direction of Evan Jackson, the tension smacks you in the face and chains you to your chair. Who knew it was possible to feel sorry for a serial killer? But we do feel compassion for him because Amy Harmon (Mejra) is scary great. Her brutality is raw and animalistic. Harmon goes after Stetko with a non-stop fury that is unapologetic, unforgiving and uncontrollable. Fight choreographer Greg Poljacik helps Harmon kick the shit out of Brian Bengtson (Stetko). It’s disturbing and gawk-worthy. Bengston starts the show with an unfeeling narrative of his inhumane actions. It’s where Bengston ends up at the end of the play that is heart-wrenching.
The intimate setting of Side Project Theatre makes the hostilities uncomfortably close. Although the current seat configuration makes some of the fighting just out of view, it provides a brief exhale respite. I don’t have to actual see it to know Harmon is in full-throttle punishment mode. The design team adds to the audio and visual aesthetic. Composer Matthew Nischan provides original music to perfectly showcase this homage to war crimes. Set Designer Dennis Mae and Design/Element Support Aaron Beckman hang these whimsical representations of the victims. The partial ones are particularly effective remembrances.
The Monument is assembled with a lingering finish. I won’t forget this show or the twisted humanity behind it.
The Monument continues through August 26th at Side Project Theatre, 1439 W. Jarvis (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 3pm. Tickets are $15-$20, and are available online through TicketTurtle.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at IdleMuse.org. (Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes, no intermission)
Photos by Lenny Wahlberg
Amy E. Harmon (Mejra); Brian Bengtson (Stetko)
behind the scenes
Evan Jackson (director); Greg Poljacik (violence choreography); Matthew Nischan (original music, sound design); Dennis Mae (set design); Aaron Beckman (puppet design, element support); Steven Hill (lighting); Jeff Lisse (tech director); Sara Robinson (stage manager); Tyler Tidmore (asst. director); Lenny Wahlberg (photos)