Rhythm is a beautiful thing when done right. It is not hard to see how rhythm is essential for music, but it is also essential for good drama. This may be a strange thing to say about And So It Goes, Dark and Stormy's latest production. A play by George F. Walker that deals with mental illness and a family's downward spiral, but it is the first thing that struck me. The rhythm of the dialogue, the rhythm of the scenes and the rhythm of the space all felt like a backbone wonderfully laid out that carried this piece.
Don't let me confuse you, this isn't a musical, it is a straight play, and a very intimate one at that. It is performed in the round, with the seats only a couple rows deep. It builds a very intimate space, in which occasionally the actors are in the circle with you. Another interesting aspect of the space is the pillar in the middle of the room which leads every seat to have a "partial view". This set up is explained by the director in notes in the program as creating a blind spot that is specific to you. As I assume we all have blind spots in our own lives, created by our experiences and lack there of and inevitable explicit biases.
As I said before this is a story of a family's downward spiral, perhaps precipitated by the daughter's mental illness, which has been diagnosed as schizophrenia. Her parents struggle with their new relationship with their daughter and find solace in conversations with the recently dead novelist Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut's character is used mainly as a touching stone for the others. After all it can be assumed that he is a version of whoever he is talking to, conjured from their knowledge and from his writings. Only briefly are his own history and struggles touched on. But an interesting side point not explicitly mentioned in the play is that Vonnegut's own son dealt with schizophrenia.
It is from this starting point that things for this family start to fall apart. I feel like to tell you more would be to spoil the evolution. But I can say that although it deals with dark subject matter, there are still laughs. And although few happy things happen I did not leave this play feeling sad. I left feeling that I had just experienced art unlike I hadn't before, and very good art at that.
The art is brought to life by four top notch Twin Cities actors. Sara Marsh who plays Karen, is convincing as the mentally ill daughter. It didn't feel like she was selling a character with a whole different world inside her head, she simply was. To hear her speak as herself after the play was over was almost off putting, the transformation was phenomenal. Robert Dorfman and Sally Wingert play Ned and Gwen, Karen's parents. Who are both going through the same difficulties in very different ways. Gwen's pain is subtle and more reserved. Where as Ned's seems to explode out at times, noticeable through Robert Dorfman's extremely expressive face and movements. James Craven's Vonnegut is a cool grounding place for both Gwen and Ned. A good ear for listening and dispensing occasional advise. Craven's solid and calming demeanor serves this purpose in this play as well; in a play whose story is centered around chaos he brings the necessary calm and perspective.
I highly recommend you go see this piece of art that is filled with contradictions. That is both dark yet comical, chaotic yet calm and flows with an impenetrable rhythm. It is playing at the Grain Belt Studios until June 25.
Thank you to Dark and Stormy Productions for inviting me to this show.