WHEN THE DAYLIGHT GOES OUT
REVIEW: THAT LONG DAMN DARK
BY RYAN LUÉVANO
It’s not often that a play is able to successfully transcend the limits of the stage and venture into cinematic territory, and even more so in a tiny black box theatre. Ashley’s Rose Wellman’s new play That Long Damn Dark does just that. This West Coast premiere presented by Red Cup Theatre Company features a plot that’s right out of a Hollywood thriller, yet doesn’t sacrifice the desiderata that a theatrical play demands. If you’re like me, and your RedBox pick is the kind where a murder occurs and the killers are on the run, then this is the play for you. And if the latter doesn’t sound like your idea of a good evening, then there’s a touching story for you to clutch on to—there’s something for everyone in That Long Damn Dark.
Wellman wastes no time initiating her story—the very first moment in the play is two teenagers standing over two dead bodies they’ve just stowed in a storage unit. Director Laura Steinroeder, with set designer JR Bruce follow suit by setting the scene for the audience to experience before the play even begins. The entire theatre space is covered with black plastic on the walls and the stage area is adorned with clusters of furniture covered in plastic wrap and boxes stacked throughout—we’re inside a storage unit. What’s more, the audience is situated facing each other on both ends of the stage creating a fish bowl effect and allowing the watchers to also be watched.
Rod Hernandez-Farella (Todd) and Charmee Taylor (Leah) are an engaging Bonnie-and Clyde-like duo whose story audiences eagerly follow. We see Hernandez-Farella grapple with his character’s inner struggle between child-like naiveté and the responsibilities of being a man. His portrayal of Todd is honest and relatable—he is an embodiment of a little brother who’s eager to grow up, yet has much to learn. Taylor is the willing sidekick until the end when she makes a decision to do what she thinks is right. Taylor is gentle, innocent and inherently vulnerable; her performance easily convinces the audience to absolve her of the crime she’s committed.
Steinroeder takes the challenges of the play’s non-linear structure coupled with the confined space to make theatre magic—everything is precise and intriguing. The lighting design by Brandon Baruch, who is becoming known for his use of industrial lighting, without a doubt facilitates the storytelling here. Similar to Coeurage Theatre Company’s Urinetown (currently still running), Baruch employs work lights and a single light bulb hanging above to accent this piece with ominous shadows and stark up-lighting. With ghosts walking and talking throughout the play, this lighting is the perfect choice.
While That Long Damn Dark explores many important topics such as relationships, abuse, rape, death, love, and sexuality, what becomes the query of the evening is: whose is to blame? Come sit in the dark, take your friend, spouse, sibling, anyone, and I assure you there will be much to discuss once the play is through.
That Long Damn Dark is performing February 4th – 19th, Thursdays-Saturdays at 8PM & Saturdays & Sundays at 4PM at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90039. For tickets please visit: www.redcuptheatreco.com. General Admission is $25.