OWNERS (InVersion): A farce in a dark world

Photo credit: Julius Edward Maurer III

Photo credit: Julius Edward Maurer III

OWNERS, a dark comedy by British playwright Caryl Churchill, is an examination of the sexual politics of power and property. Marion (Brittany Kvitko), a psychiatric patient turned slumlord, takes it upon herself to evict her apathetic ex-lover Alec (Andrew Albitz) from his apartment, and abscond with his baby, who she plans on installing as an heir to her husband’s butchering business. If it sounds like a zany farce, that’s because it is. It’s a fun, dark world, where everything and everyone is just an acquisition waiting to happen; apartments are traded for babies, which are traded for sex, which is used as leverage for more negotiations and scheming.

There are many things to like about InVersion Theatre’s production (directed by William Steinberger), notably the upbeat wit of Marion’s assistant and serial suicidalist Worsely (Trevor William Fayle), whose injuries pile up throughout the play as he fails to kill himself again and again. (It would be fun to see him become a bit more debilitated by his horrific traumas, though; the play screams for a charred, Black Knight-style stump by the end of the show). Alec and his high-strung wife Lisa (Lizzie Spellman), work together effectively to portray a comically dysfunctional family situation; Alec’s nihilistic stylings are particularly fun to watch.

Photo credit: Julius Edward Maurer III.

Photo credit: Julius Edward Maurer III.

However, this production is far from a light, twisted, well-oiled farce. Marion is not the ruthless, recently insane powerhouse needed to drive plot, and much of the comedy (especially in the first act) drags and clangs. Scene changes take six seconds longer than they should, which kills any momentum the cast is able to generate in a show that really wants to be a bullet train. OWNERS also could have benefited from better fight direction, evidenced by a lackluster struggle over a baby in a bowl, missed opportunities with a suicidal man in a room filled with guns and knives, and a thunderous slap which is forgotten nearly before it is finished. December 6–15, 2013, inversiontheatre.virb.com.

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About the author

James Kiesel

James Kiesel is a proud Philadelphia-based nerd who makes websites for a job and theater for a living. He founded GDP Productions (www.gdpproductions.com) in July of 2011, and is a core member of Philadelphia's only fight-based theatre ensemble, the 95 Runagates. You can reach him at james.kiesel@gmail.com