There have been two shows this year that have absolutely blown my mind and inspired me to create my own content. DARLINGS, reviewed below, was the first.
This is a review written this past summer.
Darlings by Animal Engine at the Know Theatre Mainstage
As part of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival 2016
Wed June 8, 6:15pm
It’s a thrilling feeling to be immersed in a theatrical world. DARLINGS wastes no time creating this experience by thrusting the story directly into the path of those entering the play space: a man stands in a corner of the Know Theatre. It’s raining on him. He holds a small umbrella and reaches out a “missing” poster - three small children pasted somberly, looking out.
The visual is impressive, providing more questions than answers, which remains a signature of this layered show. A woman with her back to the audience begins singing, her haunting voice draping the meager set, and the play begins. Subtle, elusive, delicate, and poignant, DARLINGS by Animal Engine as part of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival is a two-person show that skillfully immerses the audience in the world following the disappearance of the three Darling children of Peter Pan lore. Left behind are the Darling parents, a proper turn-of-the-century pair amidst the shambles of a once-loving relationship and childless home.
We learn quickly the Darlings are not functioning well. Animal Collective patiently fills the space with character motivation and desires, in spite of little written dialogue. We fly eagerly along as the Darling parents work their way through trauma repression and therapeutic role play, re-living what could have possibly occurred to make their children disappear.
With basic props and set, we watch the Darlings deftly create world after world, imbuing childlike imagination and wonder into every setting sprung forth from exuberant acting. We travel as the Darling parents build mountains, lagoons, and pirate ships on their complicated journey to explore the realities of existing now as parentless parents.
DARLINGS at the Know Theatre is an absolute must-see. Carrie Brown and Karim Muasher employ such focus and technical excellence throughout their character craftsmanship that the moments they construct together are surmounted only by watching them deconstruct them skillfully and with reckless abandon. A playful, heartbreaking take on the Peter Pan story, this show is appropriate for audiences of all ages, and is a loose-cannon of adventure that lives exquisitely in dual realities.
Created and performed by Carrie Brown and Karim Muasher
Directed by Melinda Jean Ferraraccio
Additional Text by Nick Ryan
Musical Direction by Katie Hartman
Fight Choreography by Ben Peterson
Costume Consultation by Barbara Harvey Abbott