Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Bollard: Darkness on the edge of stardom:

Mike Daisey, a large man with pale skin dressed all in black, walks on stage and sits at a table. On the table is a glass of water and a black cloth (he sweats under the lights) and a few sheets of notes. Daisey sits and talks for 90 minutes. The result: Some of the best theater you can get in America right now.

The black box of Portland Stage Company’s Studio Theatre is blacker than usual for this show. The lobby and theater are minimally lit. Upon arriving, audience members are each handed a flashlight. Nervously moving through shadows in search of a seat well prepares the viewer for Daisey's subjects: ghosts, the unknown, the unknowable.

Daisey's method often involves mixing personal history with stories about historical figures. This time around it’s H.P. Lovecraft, the early 20th-century author of overheated tales teeming with the half-glimpsed terrors that lurk just below the surface of life. Daisey ties himself to Lovecraft through the story of the night he and some friends broke into the writer’s old apartment and held a séance. "I am an atheist," Daisey proclaims – but that doesn't keep him away from the Ouija board...

There are essentially three stories in the show, and Daisey alternates between them until each comes to a conclusion. There is the life of Lovecraft, who fell into the pit of madness, crawled his way back, and then wrote about what he'd experienced; the story of Mike Daisey as a boy, an existentialist at age five who thought about death constantly; and the creepy saga of Laura, the sad girl Daisey semi-befriended as a teen, whose sad eyes seemed to hold terrible secrets (and, of course, they did).

12:18 AM