Mary, a girl dressed as an outdated man. One other Mary, a girl in a lobster swimsuit. John Kane, a nervous psychological affected person in blue pajamas. And a anonymous drummer who by no means speaks. These eccentric characters come collectively in Enda Walsh’s typically baffling but all the time arresting new play, “Drugs,” a presentation of Landmark Productions and the Galway Worldwide Arts Competition that opened at St. Ann’s Warehouse on Tuesday.
John (Domhnall Gleeson) wanders onto the set, a colorless room with the look of a group middle corridor (design by Jamie Vartan). It’s a large number — the aftermath of a employees get together, with streamers and balloons — and John is anxious about it. He putters round, fidgeting and choosing issues up haphazardly.
He’s making ready for the arrival of the 2 Marys (Aoife Duffin and Clare Barrett) and the drummer (Sean Carpio). They’re there on the establishment to run by means of a script of John’s life, presumably as a form of drama remedy.
As soon as they arrive and their routine will get underway, the Marys don totally different costumes and lip sync a recording of dialogue from the folks in John’s life, starting together with his dad and mom on the day he was born. As John narrates, the Marys interrupt, to share notes and carry out random dances whereas the drummer scores the scenes. However as John’s story unfolds, he turns into more and more frazzled.
Walsh, a celebrated playwright and director whose enigmatic works embrace “Grief Is the Factor with Feathers,” “Arlington” and “Rooms,” additionally writes and directs this play, which seems like a psychosexual absurdist fantasy. How lengthy has John been right here? What components of this are actual? Walsh is much less involved with offering solutions than he’s with making us sit with John’s mounting sense of desolation and disgrace. On this approach, the work resembles a poem or an interpretive dance, resonating with symbols and gestures and emotions, and the remainder is for the viewers to puzzle by means of.
John recounts abuse by his dad and mom and friends when he was a toddler, and maltreatment by the hands of a employee on the establishment. He scrutinizes his mom’s negligence and overt sexuality, and conflates his budding erotic wishes as a teen together with his craving for maternal love and a spotlight. All of the whereas the narcissistic Lobster Mary (or Mary 2, because the script calls her) controls the efficiency: She harasses Mary 1 and bullies John.
If that weren’t Freudian sufficient, Walsh vegetation recurring pictures and themes all through, implying connections between John’s model of his previous and the current second with the actors.
What the 2 Marys are doing right here is its personal theater — a manufacturing that Mary 1 begins to suspect is merciless. As they step into and out of the personalities in John’s life, the lights shift with Earth, Wind & Hearth’s “September” taking part in. (Adam Silverman handles the mercurial lighting.)
Barrett provides a menacing efficiency as Mary 2, who embodies a number of the extra brutal characters in John’s story and goals her personal photographs of hostility at Mary 1 (Duffin, who appeared as Ophelia reverse Ruth Negga in “Hamlet” at St. Ann’s Warehouse in 2020). Duffin’s Mary is empathetic, a lot in order that she inhabits John’s story, and sooner or later the voice-over of a personality she’s taking part in overlaps along with her voice as she speaks the identical strains. The language right here — which Walsh writes with aureate poeticism, filled with vivid imagery and pointed symbolism — is what provides the present its melancholic magnificence.
Then there’s Gleeson himself, together with his spectacular efficiency. He’s a chameleonic TV and movie star (“Harry Potter,” “Star Wars,” “Run”) who can convey something from a villainous sneer to a delicate whimper together with his whole bodily bearing. Regardless of his top, Gleeson appears to wilt like a flower in need of solar. He nervously shuffles across the stage or will get labored right into a frenzy — huffing and flailing with explosive bravado, seamlessly accompanied by Carpio’s percussion. (Helen Atkinson handily controls the layered sound design.)
There may simply be extra Gleeson — and by that I imply extra of John’s perspective, as a result of we get solely snapshots of his life. By the top, John reasserts that he’s “not like different folks” and belongs within the establishment. It appears John is a sufferer of a form of manipulation; the drama remedy isn’t to assist him however to gaslight him into believing he mustn’t ever attempt to search freedom. Beneath all the eccentricities of Walsh’s script is a criticism of the methods by which society fails the mentally in poor health.
It’s unclear whether or not Walsh can be indicting theater — that is, in any case, a play by which a play is used towards devious ends. So maybe “Drugs” is solely a piece of fanciful mysteries. Truthfully, it doesn’t actually matter. The emotional core of the present is all the time prevalent.
By the top, John’s dejection feels as acquainted as a phantom ache. He should still be inside the similar unhappy 4 partitions the place he started, however Walsh’s manufacturing transforms the house from one in all isolation into one in all empathy that even the viewers can share. As a result of finally, a few doses of human connection is the perfect drugs anybody can ask for.
Via Dec. 5 at St. Ann’s Warehouse, Brooklyn; stannswarehouse.org. Working time: 1 hour half-hour.
Supply: NY Times