Loneliness and isolation can be as debilitating as disease. A single incident can alter lifes course forever. Blossoming love can be withered by harsh realities.
These are the underlying themes of Irish playwright Enda Walshs The New Electric Ballroom, his 2008 play about three forlorn sisters in a remote fishing village. Manbites Dogs production proffers four veteran Triangle actors in an intense staging that emphasizes surreal elements over underlying emotions.
Sisters Breda, Clara and Ada live a hermetic existence, their daily lives filled with the constant reminder of the night Breda and Clara went to a new nightspot, hoping to connect with a popular rock singer. They each naively hoped hed take them away from their dreary fate, but the singers callowness crushed their dreams, souring them to further relationships.
Theyve turned their hurt into an ongoing ritual, taking turns repeating the events of that night, arguing over any missed details. Theyve also pulled younger sister Ada into the bizarre ceremony to teach her its lessons about the perils of love. Adas resignation to a loveless life changes when tentative feelings emerge for shy, simpleminded fisherman Patsy, whose own troubled past casts a pall over the possibilities.
Director Jeff Storer focuses on the characters bizarre behavior and strange, poetic speech to shape the piece into a macabre horror story. Within this concept, Marcia Edmundsons Breda is a bitter, crazed shell and Lenore Fields Clara is a darkly comic whacko, constantly taunting and accusing each other. They are at their best in frightening descriptions of their reactions to that destiny-changing evening. In their worn, bedraggled clothing and sloppy, exaggerated make-up, they often seem right out of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Katja Hills Ada is numbly submissive until Derrick Iveys Patsy goes from awkward nervousness to frenzied fantasizing about their future together.
Derrick Iveys set of foreboding, prison-like walls of metal bars, along with Chuck Catottis eerie, shadow-drenched lighting, faithfully serve Storers concept. Storer keeps the tension chilly and tight in this 80-minute one-act, but a more realistic approach to these admittedly eccentric characters would allow for stronger emotional connections to such recognizable broken spirits.
Still, the unity of the concept and the commitment of these fine actors make for an engaging theatrical experience.