After careening from the elegant wit of Wilde to the absurdist work of Beckett, Irish theater of the 1990s saw radical changes. Ensembles focused on gritty, darkly humorous urban tales, slathered in the supernatural. Award-winning playwright/screenwriter Mark O’Rowe came to prominence during this era; in 2007, O’Rowe created “Terminus,” a lyrical powerhouse that captures the phantastic humor and subject matter of the time. The piece is a stunning, carnage-filled opus, soppy with blood, sweat and tears, full of the demons that haunt and love us.
A triad of characters, simply known as A (Christina Hall), B (Michaela Petro) and C (Kevin Barry Crowley) monologue in rhyming direct address, detailing their brutal narratives. A tracks a pregnant former student in search of an abortion from a thuggish lover. C, a serial killer, sells his soul to the devil for a voice that will make him irresistible to women and B falls from a construction crane only to be saved and courted by C’s soul. The connections between the three are subtly woven together in a poetic fever dream that doesn’t flinch from staring down the world’s heartbreaking beauty and cruelty.
Maintaining 110 minutes of complex language is no mean feat; it would be impossible without the game cast of actors the piece showcases. Hall, Petro and Crowley balance the necessary humor and pathos the work demands. Hall’s well-shaded sarcasm keeps her character’s do-gooder instinct from becoming sickly sweet. Crowley’s charm and appeal make his character’s actuality a frightening surprise. Petro’s portrayal of her character’s yearning feels palpable. Director Jeffry Stanton’s smart decision to dial down the extra features works; nothing competes with the language, even Mike Mroch’s spare, abstract set. The focus is the language, which is as it should be. If you are looking for an exquisite ghost story to take you into the chilling autumn weather, this is it. (Lisa Buscani)
Interrobang Theatre Project at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 North Southport, (773)935-6875. Through October 6.