An annual Fringe highlight, Found Theater Company returns with its intelligent, transportive brand of ensemble-devised work in CITY OF WOES. Inspired by the Gothic religious vision, torments, and personages of Dante’s Inferno, but seen through the lens of the hardboiled noir style of 1940s crime fiction, Found’s poetic storytelling and impactful imagery evince an effective synthesis of the two. With powerful direction by Alison Mae Hoban (who also plays Minos, judge of the underworld), mystery novelist Virgil (Amy Frear) comes to regret her hopeless story of eternal damnation, in which Dante, a detective (Matt Lorenz), traverses hell to search for his lost love and encounters Brunetto Latini (Joe Wozniak), who longs for affection but acknowledges he’s “here for a reason.”
The narrative is punctuated by chthonic lighting (Will Jonez) and well-executed, relevant movement (training by Lorenz), as ferryman Charon (Phoebe Schaub) rows damned souls across the muddy river to hell and its denizens are flung into walls by an infernal storm. Like the original score (music direction by Schaub)—featuring hypnotic chants, sultry ballads by Mama Wolf (Kerry Brind’Amour), and the affecting guitar and keyboards of musician Farinata (Kevin O’Halloran)—the entire ensemble is entrancing. This young collective displays talent, maturity, and wisdom beyond its years (“Can’t any of us just appreciate our lives while we’re livin’ ‘em?”) in a haunting foray into death, accountability, despair, and hope. Though the third-floor venue was hot as hell during the worst of the heat wave, I could have sat there through eternity watching this profound performance. [Vox Populi Aux Performance Space, 319 N. 11th Street, 3rd floor] September 9-15, 2015; fringearts.com/city-of-woes.