‘Ligature Marks:’ Theatre Review

LA-based theatre company Theatre Unleashed (TU) recently launched its 2015 season with the premiere of Ligature Marks, a play that examines a dysfunctional and destructive co-dependent relationship, but with it - and more importantly - TU has initiated a campaign to push the conversation of gender politics forward.  According to Theatre Unleashed Artistic Director Jenn Scuderi Crafts, "Ligature Marks is the beginning of a season that joins a global conversation about men and women.  The phrases 'rape culture,' 'yes all women,' 'he for she,' 'feminism,' 'anti-feminism,' and so many other heated phrases are commonplace today, and I feel our season fits well into that discussion.  We are consciously making an effort to add our artistic voice into a poignant and relevant global conversation."  While I will caution readers that the subject matter and content of Ligature Marks may be unsettling for some and inappropriate for younger viewers, it is, without a doubt, an extremely powerful performance that will leave audiences deeply affected and compelled to contemplate the dynamics of human relationships. 

Ligature Marks, written by Mac Rogers, first made its way to the theatre scene via several Fringe Festivals throughout the US and Canada in 2014, before finding a home with TU.  In the show, the audience follows Terry, a man recently released from a minimum-security prison whose sole desire in life has been reduced to online multi-player gaming, and Jill, a woman whose very existence depends solely upon being with Terry.  The show, which runs for 90 minutes without an intermission, is an intense build of tension as the layers of their co-dependent relationship unfold, the audience all the while piecing together the cyclical pattern of Jill's compulsive caretaking of Terry and Terry's unconscious attraction to her ability to rescue him from his many faults.  The result is a brutal display of the human condition, tackling self-esteem, shame, desire, power, and depression in the most honest of depictions.  While Ligature Marks' cast displays the effects of dysfunction within a heterosexual couple, thereby advancing the conversation about the roles of men and women in today's society, I would encourage audiences to apply these issues to relationships that fall within all aspects of the LGBTQ spectrum, as they are certainly not limited to heterosexual couples. 

The play is performed within The Belfry Stage (Upstairs) in North Hollywood, CA, a black box theatre that comfortably holds the living room set throughout which the entire show unfolds.  The set perfectly captures the cozy, yet claustrophobic, feeling of the pair's meager one-bedroom apartment and acts as its own character, constantly trapping the characters and strangling their efforts to break free of their spiraling bond to one another.

Actors Sean Fitzgerald and Liz Fenning deliver heartrending and masterful performances as Terry and Jill, respectively, each challenging and edging the other into a seemingly endless abyss of emotion.  When watching the show, you are entranced by the ease with which the performers find their co-dependent pattern, not realizing their level of destruction until the more violent and heartbreaking moments of the show unfold.  I would be fascinated to have witnessed the rehearsal process of the actors and director and would likewise be interested to know if the cast had worked with a psychological professional in understanding the characters' motivations and behavior. 

Ligature Marks is a powerful, thought-provoking, and unabashed effort by Theatre Unleashed to drive the conversation of gender politics forward.  While the discussion may be painful, emotional, and challenging, TU recognizes that it is one that must be had, and I applaud the company and its players for bringing the conversation to a new medium. The show will run through March 7th, with performances on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 each and are available online or at the door.  Patrons may also "Pay What You Want" for tickets with a $5 donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Please note that the theatre is located upstairs, and, unfortunately, it is not wheelchair accessible. Be sure to visit the Theatre Unleashed website for further details.

Last modified on Monday, 24 December 2018 20:13

Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief

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