Everyone is reeling from trauma — both universal and deeply personal — in “Lollyville,” a new work by local playwrights Juliet Waller Pruzan and Bret Fetzer.
Originally conceived as a short play for On the Boards’ Northwest New Works festival 15 years ago, “Lollyville” has been expanded into a full-length piece that traces a clear through-line from Samuel Beckett to Will Eno to Pruzan and Fetzer in its absurdist take on the human condition.
Macha Monkey’s production, directed by Kristina Sutherland Rowell, struggles to take the script’s abstractions and translate them into concrete visual ideas, but the play is often evocative enough to overcome the limitations of the stagecraft.
Lollyville is a town populated solely by women, sealed off from the outside world thanks to a collapsed train tunnel. A selectively invisible ghost (Matthew Middleton), whose history with the town is less than pleasant, arrives determined to wreak havoc.
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The ghost toys with physical and emotional states, leaving a schoolteacher (Jillian Vashro) barely able to move and persuading a psychiatrist (Rebecca Goldberg) to fall in love with a man who isn’t there.
For the most part though, the ghost doesn’t have to do much — fragility and loneliness is deeply ingrained here without any of his meddling. While the train tunnel accident looms large in the town’s history as the event that separated Lollyville from the world, it also seemingly separated the inhabitants from each other. Conversations are brief, fragmented and futile — kind of like everyone is talking to a ghost.
The aching isolation is personified in Ruth (Tracy Leigh), a factory worker who’s cobbled together a makeshift family by essentially kidnapping girls and keeping them in her basement. Leigh’s performance is simultaneously beguiling, innocently childlike and desperately conniving.
Leigh turns out to be a more effective conduit for the melancholy, sometimes willfully opaque material than the staging, a series of haphazardly blocked scenes in a cavernous space, with a set design by Kaillee Coleman that feels stuck between stark minimalism and on-the-nose details.
Despite the limitations of this premiere production, Pruzan and Fetzer have created an intriguing, moody fairy tale, a work 15 years in the making that feels like its theatrical journey might just be getting started.
Dusty Somers: email@example.com