Theatre & Movie Reviews

‘Mercy Falls’ for whom at Key City Public Theatre

Jason Victor Serinus
Posted 12/4/19

There are times when, if life is not imitating art and art is not imitating life, that one is forced to question the very notions of art, life and imitation.

It is with such thoughts in mind that …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in
Theatre & Movie Reviews

‘Mercy Falls’ for whom at Key City Public Theatre

Posted

There are times when, if life is not imitating art and art is not imitating life, that one is forced to question the very notions of art, life and imitation.

It is with such thoughts in mind that one might approach the world premiere of Jeni Mahoney’s “Mercy Falls,” one of two holiday offerings that run through the end of December at Key City Public Theatre.

As the play’s Marcy (the absolutely delightful and spirit-warming Consuelo Aduviso) experiences flashbacks to her prior visit to a hospital—the 75-minute one-acter takes place in a hospital ward—and the faux inspirational writer Wanda (the energetic and unquestionably stalwart Michelle Hensel) finds inspiration in her plight, at least one audience member’s mind experienced flashbacks to countless interviews with Donald Trump and his merrie band of loyal cheerleaders.

How could this possibly be happening, the mind asks? How can they possibly be repeating the same things over and over again, taking them to new levels of absurdity, yet constantly calling their fiction reality? Is this level of absurdity so beyond any “normal” understanding of the absurd that talk of the “new normalcy” is undercut by an inadequate understanding of the very nature of normalcy, the limits of absurdity, and the very existence of normal absurdity? Is “normalcy” in and of itself an absurdity?

After all, “Mercy Falls” is set in Mercy Falls, Ohio. That’s a town that sounds about as normal as it gets. It’s also in a state where Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential election by a margin of 8.13 points. Does the majority in Ohio know something about normalcy that we don’t know? Is what they know something worth knowing?

In the play, Marcy repeatedly questions who she is, and what her effect is on others in her world. As she searches for answers, so do we.

“With ripeness the fruit fulfills itself.” That statement, by philosopher Martin Heidegger, surfaces continuously in the original German throughout the play. Its very presence seems to imply that something very profound is transpiring onstage.

But what does the phrase mean? In his book Death and Desire in Hegel, Heidegger and Deleuze, author Brent Adkins writes, “What is the relation between a fruit that is unripe and the fruit that it will be when it achieves ripeness? How does the fruit become ripe? Can anything be added to the fruit to make it ripe? The fruit does not become ripe by the addition of any thing to it. The fruit becomes ripe by itself. When the fruit does become ripe we say that the fruit has fulfilled itself. That which was not yet ripe is now ripe. The fruit has actualized itself. It has brought itself to completion. It has fulfilled itself. In this sense the fruit is already its ripeness, even though it is not yet ripe. However the fruit becomes ripe it becomes it within itself.”

Perhaps “Mercy Falls” presents us with the answer to the centuries-old question, “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Here are some of the other lines in “Mercy Falls” worth pondering:

“For years, she’s been going on and on.”

“I don’t even know what I’m doing here. Why God, why me? Why me, God, why?”

“Have we been reduced to this?”

What is known, regardless of what is not known and what cannot be known, is that actors Aduviso, Hensel, Jennifer True (in multiple guises), Maggie Jo Bulkley (as the unseen German mama), and Tomoki Sage (in multiple guises) give it their all.

Director and set designer Denise Winter, costume designer Bulkley and everyone else also give it their all. But is all all there is?

One more thing is known. Last week’s Leader announced the death of James Lawrason Driscoll, on Sept. 3, 2019. Lawrie was one of our most beloved and gifted actors. Time and again, his eyes would sparkle through his characters, as if to say, “Come join me as we explore this playpen together.” Being in Lawrie’s presence was an act of grace. I join all who loved him in mourning his passing.

Jason Victor Serinus has written about music, audio, and theater for Seattle Times, Opera News, Stereophile, Carnegie Hall, Gramophone, San Francisco Magazine, and Gay City News among many others. A prize-winning professional whistler, he performed Woodstock’s Puccini aria in the Peanuts cartoon, “She’s a Good Skate, Charlie Brown.”

Comments

1 comment on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment
Charlie Bermant

I attended this play and found it to be confusing—although not half as confusing as this condescending, overwritten review.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019