There are very few good horror plays, when you think about it. There are some horror-like themes in plays such as Wait Until Dark and some mysteries (Christie, Poe and some of the Sherlock Holmes pieces come to mind); Frankenstein and Dracula (but they’re so well-known you know when the scares are coming); Sweeney Todd, Carrie: The Musical and Misery (sure, horror, but again, well-known – Sweeney’s razors, the bucket of blood, Annie and her axe are all cultural tropes.) It’s a shame, really – don’t we all like being a little scared, and isn’t a dark theater – with the immediacy of live performers – just the place for it?
Mine starts out on a happy note – Mari (Brigitta Giulianelli) and Peter (Isaac Newberry) are about to become first-time parents. Mari has a home birth, assisted by their midwife Joan (Emer Geraghty.) The next morning, eager to hold her child, Mari picks her up – and screams for her husband, convinced that this baby is not theirs, not the one they’d put in the cradle the night before. Is it a hormonal problem, as Peter, Joan and Mari’s mother Rina (Kathleen Reilly) think? Or something more sinister, somehow related to Amy (Meigg Jupin), the woman Mari meets in the park who seems to have more than a passing interest in the child?
What a weird, twisted, creepy, perfect little gem of a show. I can always count on Creative License to find work that makes me think, and usually work that’s new to me, both things I love. Director Casey Polomaine keeps the tension high throughout without ever overplaying her hand – this isn’t just a play about “what if my child isn’t mine,” it’s also play about “what if I’m losing my mind,” and she never loses sight of one for the other here. Polomaine and Aaron Holbritter’s sound design is excellent, as well – quiet, moody music just when it’s needed, with a pop near the end of a haunting female acoustic version of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”
Giulianelli, whose work I always enjoy, was excellent here; the emotion and exhaustion of a new mother was written all over her, in her halting walk, on her face, in the occasional crack in her voice. She takes us on this journey of loss with her and through her work, we feel her pain. I’ve seen Jupin on area stages for years and am more and more impressed with her with every role she takes; she has an uncanny ability to utterly morph into her character, and here she was full of electricity, almost alien, catlike. She didn’t throw away a single expression or body movement toward the greater goal. Newberry was so relatable – watching him trying to navigate fatherhood, as well as what he sees as his wife’s breakdown, was heartwrenching.
Thank you to Creative License for, yet again, bringing new work to the area; it’s not often we see something this interesting and innovative, especially not with acting and direction this strong
“Mine”; Creative License, Albany Barn, 56 Second St., Albany; through April 28; $15; Runtime: 95 minutes; (518) 618-2996, http://www.creativelicenseonline.com/