CRAVE (Svaha Theatre): 2016 Fringe review 28

Pictured: Jessica Otterbine. Photo credit: Rebecca Cureton.

Pictured: Jessica Otterbine. Photo credit: Rebecca Cureton.

Sarah Kane was one acquainted with the night. If we didn’t have the proof of her 1999 suicide at the age of 28, her plays would provide ample evidence of her familiarity with all the darknesses of the mind. Violence and cruelty pervade her earliest work; depression and mental collapse run through her later work, including CRAVE, an indictment and exploration of love presented this Fringe by Svaha Theatre in a series of late-night showings.

Written for four actors, Kane’s script contains no stage directions, character biographies, or indications of who is talking to whom. Set (perhaps) in a mental hospital with four characters in varied states of psychological decay (maybe), staging CRAVE is like trying to stage Une saison en enfer or the The Wasteland (which it references). As one character says, “you get mixed messages because I have mixed feelings.” Much is left up to the director (Elise D’Avella) and performers (Dan Cullen, Patrick McAndrew, Jessica Otterbine, and Rachel O’Hanlon-Rodriguez). Here, D’Avella and her cast successfully emphasize the heightened emotional states, with actors on the verge of hysteria throughout. Lacking quieter moments (with Cullen’s monologue on romantic desire a welcome exception) and with little direct-to-audience interaction which the receptive Iron Factory space might invite, the result is exhausting, like a rollercoaster which never reaches its satisfying peaks or rolls.

[Iron Factory, 118 Fountain Street, 3rd Floor] September 9-13, 2016; fringearts.com/crave.

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About the author

Christopher Munden

Your faithful correspondent and publisher Christopher Munden has written and edited for many publications, websites, and cultural institutions. He was an editor/publisher of the Philly Fiction book series, collections of short stories written by local writers and set in Philadelphia. He's also a soccer coach and a pretty good skier.