Are you a puzzle fanatic? Do you like a good psychological mystery play? Will five excellent actors start those grey cells in your brain working overtime? Then 7th Monarch written by Jim Henry should please you to no end. It’s at the Acorn on Theatre Row – produced by the Somerled Charitable Foundation.
Beautifully staged and directed by Scott C. Embler, 7th Monarch appears as if it’s a movie unfolding before our eyes. The set design by Shoko Kambara is full of surprises. I suppose they both collaborated closely on its design and function. It keeps you interested and wondering as the many details of this puzzling tale are revealed.
While dealing with a dysfunctional family and their secrets, 7th Monarch is one of a kind and unlike any play I’ve seen for a long time. Very much like the compelling and strange psychological novels of Georges Simenon, where one story is just the tip of the iceberg to what the real story is about, leaving us enough leeway to fill in the missing pieces when necessary.
Not all of the family is present. Only Miriam Hemmerick (a fantastic Gretchen Hall) is at home. She’s a childlike genius who can scan a newspaper and retain all with her amazing memory. There are countless neat piles of these old newspapers and mirrors are covered with clippings in her Indiana residence circa 1991 when Raina Briar (a nicely textured Leslie Hendrix) comes a calling. She is a criminal investigator with the Social Security Office. Miriam has been signing her parent’s checks for a while now and she is being accused of fraud, explaining that her parents “flew away in a comet.”
Miriam wears a space helmet and rides a pink bicycle. She is hyper. She has a passion for all things pertaining to astronauts and NASA and Tang and pot pies and crossword puzzles (there is one included in the program) and the number 43. She has obviously gone through some traumatic experience as we eventually discover.
Soon to be retired detective Leo Garnes (Michael Cullen) and looking to be re-elected Judge Kenneth Sharpe (Michael Rupert) and the young Public Defender Grey Collins (Matthew Humphreys) become involved in the case each with their own modus operandi, resulting in direct conflict.
But it is Raina’s fragile relationship with Miriam that is at the heart of the drama. How these two completely different women begin to understand one another, trust one another so as to reveal their hurtful secrets to one another is extremely compelling theatre.
Appropriate lighting design by D.M. Wood and sound design and composition by David Pinkard add to the creepy, melancholy and ominous events taking place in the “Twilight Zone House”.
There is much going on in 7th Monarch so listen closely and carefully.
www.7thMonarch.com Photos: Carol Rosegg
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