It is always a treat to see a beautifully executed piece presented in a low-budget venue, such as Storefront Theatre. The name of the venue does not misconceive. Plain and simple: it is an old store that has been transformed into a theatre. And to add extra finesse, there is torn up sidewalks and bulldozers outside of the entrance. Safe to say, this reviewer had quite the dusty walk over.
But Clock Tower Theatre proves that looks can be deceiving with their production of Scott Douglas’ The Harrowing, directed by Jeffrey Roel with Justin Buyukozer. The company demonstrates their prowess in stagecraft as they mold the space into a quaint theatre with an evocative pre-show set-up: blood-covered walls, a dirty cot, and a prisoner handcuffed to plumbing pipes – a potent image to introduce the audience to the characters’ impending power struggle.
My only aesthetic disappointment fell within the use of certain props – namely the sword, which has a composition strikingly similar to that of paper mâché. Sorry to say, that sword couldn’t look intimidating in the hands of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Harrowing is a psychologically complex piece that keeps you thinking throughout, and then stabs you in the heart by the end of it all. What initially seems like a play featuring two typical stock characters, the prisoner and the torturer, soon turns into a terrifying and frustrating thriller, as both Yeshu (Max Tepper) and Romanus (Eric Lehmann) do not only fight for power and control over each other, but also control over their own morals and judgment. The actors have a dynamic on-stage relationship and their evident individual investment into the psyches of these complex characters is often revealed.
When Yeshu, a leader and political activist, is captured by the “enemy”, he has an important decision to make: he can either abandon his people to become a symbol for his captors, or face continuous agony and punishment. We learn you can do a lot to torture a man who is “not afraid of death” – and the audience who is rooting for his survival. We follow these characters back and forth as they teeter-totter between the necessity for survival and their self-obligation to do what is morally right. This show begs us to think about war in a new light, by providing us with a character who blurs the lines between good and evil – a man who acts as if he has control, but evidently has less power than his own prisoner. He is merely the puppet in his authorities’ show.
Clock Tower Theatre’s The Harrowing is playing at the Storefront Theatre until June 7th. For tickets visit www.secureaseat.com or by call 647-660-0010.