The Abbey Theatre of Ireland’s riveting presentation of Irish dramatist Mark O’Rowe’s surreal 2007 thriller Terminus moved Duke Performances patrons to the edge of their seats and kept them there on Feb. 25th and 26th at The Carolina Theatre in downtown Durham, NC. The playwright-provocateur, who doubled as director for this nail-biting production, ingeniously interweaves three macabre monologues into a surrealistic story of lust, drunkenness, rape, abortion, and murder. The trio of intensely personal narratives are delivered directly to the audience by a spunky former schoolteacher and current women’s-crisis-center counselor (Olwen Fouéré as A), an increasingly desperate young single woman (Catherine Walker as B) with an unwanted pregnancy too far along for a late-term abortion, and a sinister self-confessed murderer (Declan Conlon as C) who might just be a demon from the depths of Hell.
Dramatist Mark O’Rowe keeps his speakers separate — perhaps inhabiting their own private portions of Hell — but their stories cross paths in an amazing series of coincidences as they spill their guts and O’Rowe peels layer after layer from their psychic onions. Howie the Rookie (1999) and Terminus are both puzzles, and their endings are open to argument.
O’Rowe provides just enough puzzle pieces for the audience to glimpse the dim outlines of the series of shocking events that propel his deeply disturbed characters down their primrose paths — and he allows them to make some of their most private thoughts and fears public without ever telling the whole story or tying up the play’s visceral vignettes neatly with a great big red bow.
In Terminus, Catherine Walker gives a passionate performance as a concerned crisis counselor who thinks that she recognizes the voice of a pregnant caller as that of a student whom she once taught and subsequently visits that student’s home to investigate. Declan Conlon tugs at the audience’s heartstrings with her harrowing account of how her character came to be pregnant through rape when a couple of her drinking buddies conspired with the rapist to get her drunk and take her to an isolated location where no one would hear her screams. But is she the teacher-turned-crisis counselor’s one-time pupil, or is she the teacher’s estranged daughter? And who — or what — exactly is C? Is he a human serial killer or a hideous demon incarnate? Declan Conlon’s creepy characterization gives plausibility to both interpretations of the role, and is just one of the many, many delights of this devilishly dark story.
SECOND OPINION: Feb. 26th Classical Voice of North Carolina review by Kate Dobbs Ariail: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=780; Feb. 26th Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 3.5 of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/artery/archives/2011/02/26/terminus-impresses-most-when-its-rhymes-impress-us-least; and Feb. 22nd Durham, NC The Thread: Duke Performances Blog article by Adam Sobsey: http://thethread.dukeperformances.duke.edu/2011/02/terminus-yeats-the-avant-garde-roots-of-abbey-theatre/. (To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Feb. 25th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2011/02/terminus-by-mark-orowe-spins-surreal-narratives-full-of-angels-and-demons-lust-and-violence/.)
SHOW: http://dukeperformances.duke.edu/series/travelers/abbeytheatre?utm_source=contactology&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2010/11 Season.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIgkYRlMwP0&feature=player_embedded.
The Play: http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/700 (official website).
The Playwright/Director: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_O’Rowe (Wikipedia) and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1248824/ (Internet Movie Database).
Abbey Theatre: http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbey_Theatre (Wikipedia).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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