REVIEW by Willard Manus
Playwright/actor Tim Crouch premiered his interactive, fiercely provocative THE AUTHOR at London's Royal Court Theatre two years ago, then revived it at last year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Now LA's Center Theatre Group has mounted the North American premiere, with Crouch and three other British actors reprising their performances. And what performances they are.
THE AUTHOR unfolds in deceptively casual fashion. The audience sits in two facing blocks of seats. Crouch, seated on one side, begins chatting amiably with the audience. A fellow actor, Vic Llewellyn, located opposite, chimes in. Their banter made me think of an artichoke with its petals being slowly peeled back, revealing its hidden heart--in this case, the violent nature of man.
The theme is probed and elaborated on when two more actors (Chris Goode and Esther Smith), also positioned in the audience, join in. Their seemingly disparate arias begin to weave themselves into a whole. We learn that the four of them recently took part in a war play written by Crouch which involved enemy interrogation, rape, and torture. The actors were encouraged to seek out real-life victims of similar kinds of abuse--e.g., a girl who had been raped by her father. By immersing themselves in violence and inhumanity, they were able to deliver truthful and powerful performances--but at what price to their own psyches and wellbeing?
As the person responsible for unleashing these demons, Crouch can only wonder at his own motives. Is he some kind of monster? And what of the audience? What are its motives for watching a play or movie that involves extreme violence and brutality? And what about the millions who watched on YouTube as an American prisoner of the Taliban was stabbed to death on camera? What is wrong with them, with us?
Crouch's meditation on mankind's dark, sick soul is brilliantly dramatized, performed and staged.
Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd, Culver City. 213-628-2772 or visit centertheatregroup.org