Dark House, written by Tarpley Long, is the original title of William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! and the current title of her take on it. It’s the bleak account of a prominent Washington DC family’s unraveling through three decades. The recounting of generations flutter amidst the 60s, 70s and 80s Degenerated by greed, power, classism, discrimination, sex and incest – the sole living heir and the family maid awaken the past in telling their story.
Rosa Coldfield (Mary Agnes Shearon) is the last one breathing of the Sutpen dynasty. As an elderly lady selling the historical family mansion to an intriguing Quentin Compson (Meshaun Labrone), she retells the stories of her infamous family. A powerfully played Thomas Sutpen (Peter Boyer) was cold-hearted when he married an affective Lally Bond (Hillary Dean) for an heir. She incidentally bore him a well played mulatto child named Charles Bond (Peter Boyer again) as the consequence of an obscure family secret. Sutpen abandoned them both. Next he found his way into the Coldfield family tree where he married and fathered Henry Sutpen (Michael Knowles) and a daughter (Emily H. Gilson). Emily played the characters of Ellen, Judith, and Millie. (I was confused about who was actually the daughter). Michael was excellent also playing Goodhue Coldfield and Wash Jones – and while I could definitely follow his characters transitions, trying to keep track of them all as they traveled through time and storylines proved to be very discombobulating.
I didn’t have enough time to get acquainted with a storyline or its characters before the storyline changed. The script is far too complex a tale to be told in an hour – especially if doubling and tripling characters on one actor.
Clytemnestra (Kashayna Johnson) is the delightful maid. She helped by stepping into the narrative and supplemented the story from time to time. Director Tracy McMullan opened the performance with spliced old newsreels footage covering the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The impetus just didn’t support or carry through the story as a whole. Or maybe that was written in the script – I don’t know.
Dark House is a very dense play. The language is elevated and sometimes hard to follow. The acting was marvelous – especially HIllary Dean and Michael Knowles…and, gosh, the cast was good. The direction by McMullan was clean and concise, too. And I really truly admire and like the story, but I think it simply needs more time and space for its potential to unfold.
Running time: One hour.
Dark House is playing through Juky 27, 2013 at Fort Fringe Redrum – 612 L Street, NW, in Washington DC . For performance times and to purchase tickets, visit the show’s Capital Fringe page.