Theater review: Little Green Pig scores with 'Man Who Was Thursday'

CorrespondentDecember 10, 2013 

Little Green Pig presents “The Man Who Was Thursday.”

COURTESY OF JAY O’BERSKI

  • Details

    What: “The Man Who Was Thursday” presented by Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern

    Where: 539 Muze building, 539 Foster St., Durham

    When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and Dec. 19-21

    Tickets: $10-$15 ($5 student rush)

    Info: 800-838-3006 or littlegreenpig.com

G. K. Chesterton’s 1908 novel, “The Man Who Was Thursday,” continues to intrigue readers with its interweaving of mystery thriller, social commentary, political philosophy and metaphysical musing. Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern’s version exhibits the best of the company’s often-unorthodox staging techniques, resulting in one of its most engaging presentations.

Chesterton’s plot concerns Gabriel, a gentleman in Edwardian England who has been recruited by the police to infiltrate a global secret society dedicated to destroying all government. The society’s ruling council has seven members, named for days of the week, to which Gabriel cleverly gets himself elected as Thursday. Facing constant exposure, Gabriel attempts to learn what the anarchists are planning and also the identity of the frighteningly powerful leader, Sunday.

There are many surprises along the way as it becomes clear that more is going on than just bombings and assassinations. Chesterton deftly works in allusions to religious principles, offering much to reflect upon but leaving the ultimate interpretation of events to the reader.

Neal Bell, a professor of play writing at Duke University, has created an admirable script, keeping every major scene from the book but in beautifully compact form. The set design looks like a period vaudeville theater, with scenery on painted curtains that are drawn to reveal each new scene in ever-elongating vistas. The lighting has a vintage, gaslight quality, especially in the shadowy hideaways and foggy streets.

Director Jaybird O’Berski’s staging concept is particularly imaginative and often breathtaking. The tight pacing whisks the audience along on a whirlwind ride that lasts a short but satisfying 70 minutes. O’Berski overlays the production with satiric humor without diminishing the material’s underlying seriousness.

One of the book’s tenets is that things are not always what they seem, which O’Berski furthers by having an all-female cast. The women play men without exaggeration, the familiar performers often completely unrecognizable under beards, moustaches and hats.

Dana Marks’ Gabriel has great range and fervor, Laurie Wolf’s Friday is amusingly dapper, Susannah Hough’s Sunday is chillingly nonchalant and Tamara Kissane’s Lucian (the anarchist who introduces Gabriel to the council) is wittily self-absorbed. Kyma Lassiter, Jessica Flemming, Molly Forlines and Caitlin Wells add further fun to this most arresting and entertaining production.

Dicks: music_theater@lycos.com

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