The Dark at the Top of the Stairs
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Kim Taylor

Marin Classic Theatre is giving Bay Area drama buffs the opportunity to see William Ingeís rarely produced The Dark at the Top of the Stairs. Best known for Picnic, Ingeís The Dark at the Top of the Stairs is more richly filled with the many subtleties of family life. Though its surface story is uniquely American, focusing on a family whose provider suddenly finds his job rendered obsolete by progress, the deeper workings of the familyís dynamics are universal and as old as the human race.

Indeed, most of this drama functions on a primal level, moving its characters to do things the social, civilized part of their brains donít understand. Yet itís these dark primal forces that really matter. Cora (Eileen Fisher) and Rubin Flood (Ken Bacon) argue frequently causing a great deal of confusion in their two children. Sonny (Keith White) forms an unhealthy, almost Oedipal attachment to his mother, and Reenie (Sandra Allen) shuts herself down in an unhealthy isolation. But neither child is beyond help, simply because the parents really do love each other.

Though they act like they hate each other often enough, hate is not the opposite of love, indifference is. Hate is merely another expression of love. Though it takes time for the children to digest this, they do eventually figure it out and come to terms with their fear of the dark at the top of the stairs. This may not be a perfect family, but love, even when laced with hate, heals all.

Aunt Lottie Lacey (Kristine Ann Lowry) and her husband Morris (Martin Cate) are the Floodís antithesis. Their marriage has neither love nor hate. A cold, deadly indifference has settled in to their relationship. Lottie admits to Cora that she envies the flood of up and down emotions that rushes through Cora and Rubinís marriage.

The entire play is a beautiful blend of how profound the ordinary can be when life is forced to rediscover its primal origins. There is no life in the lacey fringes of civilization, only in the uncontrollable rising waters of our primal nature.

Director Artie Gilbert and producer Ben Colteaux have assembled an array of talented young thespians for this production, including Marjorie Rose Taylor as Flirt Conroy, Brooke Callen as Punky Givens and Dylan Saunders as Sammy Goldenbaum. For tickets or more information call (415) 892-8551 or visit www.MCTheatre.com.

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