Tire Swing, presented by Filament Incubator in association with Epigraph Collective, is a queer science fiction horror story about three young kids who are the last to see their friend Kevin before he disappears in a local forest. Shocked and delirious with guilt, they grow up to embellish his captor into “a man made of shadows,” who visits them in bloody, symbolically-laced episodes where the world seems to cave in on itself.
The trio relies heavily on evocative poetic narration to describe these episodes. Since they represent the bulk of the play’s sci-fi horror, we can say that writer Curtis te Brinke employs high-quality narration as a special effect in the same category as production designer Jason Thomson’s somber lighting and monstrous projections.
When a character feels like there is “a shadow hovering at the edge of the night,” for example, or mentions the “trees bending unprovoked,” we are invited to delight in the strength of the unsettling images.
This is a bold show of faith in the well-written line. It’s the kind of thing William Shakespeare did, piling on the metaphors and clever turns of phrase, because it’s what his audience went to the theatre to hear. Do I think it succeeds in 2016? Yeah, at least in part, even more so if you’re already accustomed to getting your kicks from going to literary readings or from recitation in general.
After a short while, the lines struggle against how their craft would make for better use in a novel. Thomson and the actors could use more room to fill out the sense of otherworldly terror, so that it’s not so much of a close reading exercise to tap into.
Patrick Fowler plays young Kevin with the hushed hysterics of Thomas Lennon parodying serious drama. It’s an odd, on-the-nose rendition of a kid that’s almost too funny for its own good.
The main trio, Lauren (Jocelyn Adema), Ellen (Nikki Haggart), and Mark (Francois Macdonald), bear their trauma with appropriately untethered performances. Their overcooked earnestness touches ever so slightly on campy horror cheese.
With an objective eye, director Sadie Epstein-Fine arranges her actors in a way that what’s happening in front of us is just as important as what’s happening behind us. You’ll be repeatedly reminded that there’s something going on that you can’t see, a universal sign that you’re about to be scared to death.
Tire Swing runs at 56 C Kensington Ave until Oct. 22. For more information, visit http://tireswing.bpt.me/