Fable in a Factory

13P was founded in 2003 with the intention of enabling each of its member playwrights to see a full production of one of their plays, produced in accordance with their own creative vision for the piece, within a ten-year period of time. Crawl, Fade to White is 13P’s seventh production, the midpoint of the organization’s endeavor, and writer Sheila Callaghan has taken full advantage of her opportunity at the helm. Crawl, Fade to White is a tale of love, relationships, and loss with mythic overtones. Single mother Louise (Carla Harting), struggling to pay for daughter April’s (Jocelyn Kuritsky) college tuition, sells an antique lamp that is her only remaining connection to April’s father, Niko (Shawtane Monroe Bowen), and her own estranged extended family. In the meantime, April and her boyfriend Nolan (Matthew roi Berger) have dropped out of school after burning down a student dorm. They are intercepted by Louise while attempting to break into her house to steal the lamp.

The lamp’s new owners, the quirky, agoraphobic couple Dan (Matthew Lewis) and Fran (Black-Eyed Susan), plan a yard sale to finally rid themselves of mementos of their long-deceased twin children. April and Nolan invade their home, hoping to take back the lamp, and the elderly couple attempt to adopt them. The intermingling of the two households sets off a chain reaction of revelations, confessions and vengeance which climax in an ending that no one expects.

A plot summary, however, does not do justice to the full experience of this play, as much of the meaning arises from the language the characters speak and the images presented onstage. Director Paul Willis does an excellent job grounding the characters in the emotion of each moment while allowing the larger metaphors to operate freely. The acting choices are specific and effective.

The show’s venue, the Ideal Glass Gallery, has never been used to present a play before. In fact, in order to stage Crawl, Fade to White here, 13P had to construct the entire lighting grid from scratch. Their efforts, however, pay off. The cavernous space features irregular walls, exposed brick chimneys, and a pair of spacious balconys with ladders leading to the main floor and staircases leading to the roof. One of the balconies, with its ladder and staircase, is used to great effect as a secondary playing area for the scenes from Louise’s teenage romance with Niko. The industrial architecture and sheer volume of space in which the action is suspended contribute to the feeling of distance between the various characters and their floating sense of loss.

Additional elements of the ambitious set, desiged by Anna Kiraly, include spinning platforms with partial walls and windows that represent the two houses. The light, sound and costume design are all effective and contribute to the show’s coherent visual style.

13P’s Crawl, Fade to White is a superior production of an innovative script. It is unusual enough to interest the veteran theatergoer, accessible to the casual viewer, and not to be missed.

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