Cast and audience in The Electric Harvest. Photo: Andrew McCawley
The Electric Harvest
By A. Rey Pamatmat
Directed by Jane B. Jones
Review by Rachel White
Entire contents are copyright © 2018, by Rachel White. All rights reserved.
Nineteenth-century mansions always put me in a good mood on a cool September night. If there is a good story to go along with said mansion, all the better. Actors Theatre of Louisville kicks off the fall and its New Play Project with A. Rey Pamatmat’s The Electric Harvest, a site-specific one-act set in the Conrad Caldwell House in Saint James Court (the bartender gave us the low down on its haunted history), but this isn’t a traditional haunting story or really anything you would expect from the setting. The actors inhabiting the mansion, we discover, are caught in a continuous death loop, killed and brought back to life by a flock creepy bird-like demons.
To begin, the actors lead us into the entryway of the mansion almost as though beginning a tour and from there we follow them from room to room as the play progresses. We find we are both audience and part of the play as the actors occasionally notice us and even worry aloud for our safety. What’s compelling about this interactive element is that we get to come in when the actors are already caught in the loop of life and death; Pamatmat has structured the play in such a way that it reflects the experience of the actors as they die and come back to life, forcing the audience to drop in in the middle of scenes and piece together what is going on. It works very well, and director Jane B. Jones maintains cohesion and pretty tight storytelling, which could have easily gotten confusing with the transitions and the metaphysical nature of the piece.
Interwoven in the scenes are the political concerns of our time, particularly racism and gender identity. I found myself most drawn in by the more intimate scenes and found that the ensemble was most strong in these instances. One scene takes place in an upstairs bedroom where the actors play a game of Uno on the bedroom floor. The conversation leads to a discussion of race and white supremacy. The actors, who are of different ethnicities and backgrounds, are at times defensive and at other times open and forgiving. The dialogue trails off topic and then comes back around to the issues in a way that feels true to life rather than academic or heavy-handed. This is where the play’s heart is, and where the actors are most at home.
What sells the piece the most is the enthusiasm and warmth of the cast, the Professional Training Company (David Ball, Laura Lee Caudill, Josh Fulton, Emma Maltby, Angelica Santiago, and Julian Socha) who are capable of registering the fear and anxiety of their circumstance with the sense of intimacy and vulnerability of friendship.
The New Play Project will continue through November with new works by Mara Nelson-Greenberg and Tasha Gordon-Solomon, all performed by the Professional Training Company.
The Electric Harvest
September 10-September 11, 2018
7:00pm and 9:00pm
Actors Theatre of Louisville
Conrad Caldwell House Museum
1402 Saint James Court
Louisville, KY 40203
Rachel White received her MFA in playwriting from the New School for Drama, and her BA in English and Dramatic from Centre College. Her plays have been produced in New York at The New School, the Midtown International Theatre Festival and the American Globe Theater, in Los Angeles at Moving Arts Productions and the Ensemble Studio Theatre-LA. In Louisville, she has had productions at the Slant Culture Theatre Festival, the Tim Faulkner Gallery, and Finnigan Productions. She is a recipient of the Litwin Foundation Fellowship in Playwriting and was recently a semi-finalist in the Labute New Theater Festival. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and the Playwrights Gallery in New York.