Theatre Review: Inis Nua Overcomes The Monster in the Hall

On opening night of The Monster in the Hall, Artistic Director Tom Reing proudly told the audience of the growth of Inis Nua, the group that he has been the face of since its beginning.  I have been going to Inis Nua since its beginning and second his pride in its growth and development.  It is now one of Philadelphia’s most creative and daring theater groups.  With its new home in the Drake Black Box audiences can expect them to continue innovative and entertaining theater in the future.  This Philadelphia premiere from Scotland was first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  The Monster in the Hall by David Greig is another in a series of triumphs for Inis Nua.

Directed by Claire Moyer The Monster in the Hall is the story of a sixteen-year-old girl named Duck Macatarsney and her father Duke.  They live a chaotic albeit pleasant life together.  Duke, a former biker who has contracted Multiple Sclerosis, lives a simple life watching TV, smoking spliffs (marijuana cigarettes), and eating pizza.  He has raised his daughter after the mother’s death in a motorcycle accident.  Their world changes as Duke wakes up one morning blind with an impending visit from the social worker.  Duck believes the social worker is coming to remove her from her father’s care.

Duck tries to protect her life from the prospect of change.  She is followed by “the monster in the hall” which we learn is a metaphor for the young girl’s fear of the unknown and her dad’s vintage motor bike.  It becomes a symbol of a young care giver who is determined bravely to take care of Duke’s deteriorating health.  This story could easily become a melodrama, but Grieg instead approaches it with humor, music, and ridicule.  He introduces into the story internet roleplaying games, a hard rocking Norwegian anarchist, social work pamphlets and music.  He creates a fantastical world in which to tell this insightful tale.

Inis Nua employs an incredible ensemble to tell Duck’s story.  As the vulnerable Duck, Claris Park is wonderful.  She demonstrates the wide range of emotions in a teenage girl facing the pressures of caring for her dad and experiencing young womanhood.  She moves smoothly between telling the story and participating in musical interludes.  As Duke Macatarsney, Doug Durocher is whimsical, engaging, and musically talented.  His likeability makes him all the worthier of the audiences’ concern.

As a multitude of characters, Eleni Delopoulis is brilliant.  Her range of facial expressions and emotions is a joy to watch.  She plays the Norwegian anarchist, the social worker, a visiting fairy godmother, and others.  She is often required to change greatly in seconds and she handles it with great skill.  Jamison Foreman rounds out this talented quartet playing all the other male roles.  In addition he is responsible for the wonderful musical interludes.  Like his cohorts he approaches each role with clarity, energy and intelligence.  The music in the original production was written by Moonglass.  Foreman took some of their music and incorporated music composed by himself with the assistance of his fellow cast members.

The design crew matches the talent of the actors.  Apollo Mark Weaver’s set of organized chaos works perfectly for Director Moyer’s fast-paced, comic style.  Amanda Jensen (Lighting Design), Natalia de la Torre (Costume Designer), and Edward Smith (Sound Designer) collaborate to create a wonderful evening of hilarious yet thought provoking theater.

The Monster in the Hall runs through October 21st at the Drake Black Box.  For tickets contact inisnuatheatre.org.

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