Review by Danny Gaisin
Less than week before the kiddies (& some adults) are out ‘Trick or Treating’; Missed Metaphor Productions has an ingenious and creative play onstage at Passe Muraille’s backstage that perfectly fits the rationale behind next Thursday’s celebration. No Zombies, but a tale about the pen leading to the sword. “The Cult of Dalkhilu” also captures contemporary idiosyncrasies, psychosomatic phobias and alpha/omega personality traits. It also challenges the audience and especially theatre critics because there are so many plot twists that even a hint of the story line would be a spoiler. So, this scribe can only talk about the playwright/director and the individual cast members.
Norman Hussey admits to taking over two years to write this play. Rewrites, modifications, additions and omissions and finally a dramaturg-ical tweaking (read -polishing). The result is what theatre is all about – actors projecting ideas or stereotypes that glean response from the audience. To follow Dalkhilu one must understand the psyche and intensity of anyone involved with a cult. Even in history, one can learn of the dedication of the early Christians and accepting being fed to lions rather than deny or refute their beliefs. Consider WWII’s Japanese Kamikaze pilots or today’s terrorists who see themselves as holy martyrs when suicide bombing. Such firm allegiance requires a special mindset and the play, while not explaining its rationale, presents it.
Hussey, and producers Ronak Singh & Pamela Barker have something that is unique and certainly creative. There is no hint of paraphrasing (plagiarizing) deja vu; this is something singular. The focal character is an accepted novelist with a large readership following: – think Atwood or Steele; or especially Rowlands. It’s her ‘Karen Rothman’s readers who are cult like. And Lisa Lenihan portrays her with all the manifestations of a hermit. She’s manically reclusive, and obsessive/compulsive. Directorial expertise manifests itself in even underscoring the character with facial expressions and mannerisms definitive of an Asperger’s autistic. Her agent is Nicole Arends and her ‘Claire’ portrayal is fascinating. She has the innate ability to incorporate body language that is so explicit that she should make a career acting in front of those auditorially challenged.
Katie Scharf is a nosy neighbor and she possesses a high-voltage smile that makes her centre stage wherever she’s standing. The support roles by Mark H. Albert as a police detective; and “Jessica” (Kasia Dyszkiewcz) is the writer’s sister. All bring full measure of role validation to their portrayals thus contributing full measure to the plot’s progress.
There are moments of humor as well as pathos and empathy for the foibles and failures the characters project. Overall, Dalkhilu is diabolical and demonic. But it does entertain and frighten, two things that are endemic to a thespian challenge. If one can handle a little spookery, this is an intimate and titillating experience. It is onstage until Nov. 2nd.