The Monsters in “Monster Play” at CPT Give a Spine-Tingling Performance

Last night, TJ and I attended Monster Play, a devised play created in partnership between Theatre Ninjas and Cleveland Public Theatre.  For those of you who may not know, “devised” refers to a work created in a collaborative process, most often with actors improvising scenes and dialogue before establishing a fixed form for performance.

As far as I know, very few theatres in our community devise shows.  Most prefer using scripts written by playwrights.  Needless to say, I was excited to see Monster Play.

The production did not disappoint.

Jeremy Paul, artistic leader of Theatre Ninjas and the show’s director, made his greatest contribution to the show by casting these 5 young and physically adept actors as the ensemble.  Their moments of unison action and group interplay were beautiful to watch and showed a group of people who were completely in sync.  Their crawling, clawing and cawing evoked those baddies that hide under the bed and go bump in the night.  In one of many outstanding moments, 3 actors created a quick-fire montage of mythical monsters using only their bodies.

As part of the ensemble, Val Kozlenko meshed perfectly with the other actors.  When he stepped out to inhabit a particular role, Val shined.  His way of playing with his vocal score throughout the production left me delighted.  The monologue he performed entirely in Russian was made accessible through his delivery, allowing the audience to follow his thoughts through the sound of the words and not their meaning.

The Ensemble of "Monster Play." From L-R: Lauren B. Smith, Jenni Messner, Val Kozlenko, Stuart Hoffman and Ray Caspio

The only negative was with the performance text.  A vague ending left me feeling unresolved.  After speaking with TJ, I’m still shaky about how the play wrapped itself up.  However, the cast was so delightfully wicked to watch that I am able to forgive what would have been a deal-breaker in another production.

Monster Play is performed in the round with no set, few props and a powerful lighting design.  Which leaves room for the scariest monster of all: our imagination.  Paul says in his director’s notes, “monsters aren’t real, they never have been, but the fear of monsters, the ones we instinctively know are there, that fear has always been real, or at least as real as we are.”

And this frightenly enjoyable production does a skilled job of channeling our fear of what’s lurking around the corner.

***

After you see Monster Play, make sure you check out the performance art installation Royal Ann’s Preserves.  Explore, through your senses, creators Joan and Fay Hargate’s, sometimes differing, memories of their family.

It’s free with the purchase of your ticket.

Monster Play
Playing: 
Now through October 29
(Thursday-Saturday with a special Monday performance)
Curtain: 7 pm
(There is NO late seating for the production.  Please plan to arrive early.)
Run Time: 1 hour with no intermission
Tickets: $10-$25 Go to www.cptonline.org or call 216.631.2727

-Benjamin Rexroad
Managing Artistic Director

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