Monday, November 11, 2013

The Flu Season by Will Eno, Oh Dragon Theatre Company at Grayduck Gallery, November 7 - 16, 2013

CTX theatre review

by Michael Meigs

 Flu Season Oh Dragon Theatre Company Austin TX
Oh Dragon Theatre Company's choice of the Grayduck Gallery just off south First Street as the venue to stage Will Eno's The Flu Season is appropriate. The white walls, open space, and angled positioning of the seats for the audience create a stark setting for a stark play. In his odd little fable of anomie, set in a mental clinic, Will Eno tells a story that could squeeze our hearts if only he didn't keep relentlessly undercutting our reactions.
The Flu Season Will Eno Oh Dragon Theatre Austin TX
Ky Cleveland, Nicholaus Weindel (photo: Oh Dragon)
This institution is a holding space with the mission of assisting fragile souls to put their pieces back together. Newly admitted 'Man' (Nicholaus Weindel) is interviewed by the Doctor (Ky Cleveland) and newly admitted 'Woman' is brought on board by the Nurse (Victoria Jackson). Each caretaker is garrulous and self-absorbed; each admittee seems stunned. We learn a lot about the staff members, almost all of it irrelevant to the central question suggested by the structure: why are these two here at all?

Rounding out the cast are the Prologue (Kendra Pérez) and the Epilogue (Ben Howell) -- although neither exercises the announced function. They comment throughout the play. Pérez has a reassuringly pert demeanor that's balanced by Howell's arch, cynical responses. Playwright Eno uses 'Epilogue' in a deliberately 'meta' approach. Epilogue's voice seems to be that of the playwright, drawing attention to the conventions of the drama and insistently questioning the value of his own creation.
The Flu Season Will Eno Oh Dragon Theatre
Kendra Perez (photo: Oh Dragon Theatre)
In a 2009 review of an earlier production of this script by Austin Community College, I acknowledged that I found it 'aggravating,' Southern dialect for 'deliberately provocative,' but I admired the language and the images Eno used in this deliberately mundane setting.

Both in its title and in the cycle of its action, The Flu Season suggests the eternal predictability of human existence. Strangers meet, bond, become intimate, quarrel, separate, die; seen from the outside, those intensely personal stories are reduced to clinical histories. We watch two couples here. The young wounded grasp feebly for feeling and their placid elders bumble about and bond in routine and mediocrity. In fact, there's a third couple: Prologue and Epilogue stand at conventional literary remove from the story, disputing one another's declarations without directly addressing one another, like a couple long married with never a meeting of the minds.


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