Now this is Theater.
I’ve wanted to write those words in a review for so long and am thrilled to finally be able to ascribe them to Urban Theater Movement’s production of MASSACRE (Sing to Your Children) by José Rivera. I could bestow on it a number of other clichés like “Buy your tickets now!”, “Run don’t walk!”, “I was glued to the edge of my seat!”, “A show you can’t afford want to miss!” While true, these flashy sounds bytes don’t do justice to this innovative and challenging production. As a whole, it was a beautifully crafted script supported by a tense and nuanced direction and carried out by a brilliant ensemble. It was a riveting show that not only entertained and pushed the imagination with its eerie setting and poetic dialogue, but it made the audience think and view their world in a whole new way. In short, it was everything I want out of a play.
We don’t see the characters at first, but hear them instead. Screams and thuds erupt in the darkness as we listen to a brutal murder just offstage. There are the frenzied cries of the attackers, hurried orders barked out, pleading cries of the victim, all punctuated by the steady rhythm of weapon blows. Beyond creating a visceral and truly frightening experience for the audience, the cast set a level of tension and urgency that they not only maintained but escalated throughout the course of the play. The real story of the show is not the murder, but the aftermath and how these seven friends and acquaintances deal with the weight of their actions. We learn about their victim, Joe, who they describe as a pedophile, a murderer, a tyrant and menace with some kind of paranormal control over their small town. He comes off as a cross between Lost’s smoke monster and Stalin. This group seemed to stage a coup against Joe, a self-contained, seven-person revolution. But as the play unfolds, we realize that there are secrets and unrest within and between these guerillas that rival the outside turmoil that they rebelled against. Our perception of Joe gets murkier too. Is he a real person? Is he a supernatural power? Is he really at fault? Like a good play should, the production answers absolutely none of these questions. Instead it compels us as an audience to engage, bring in our own fears and prejudices and ultimately build our own conclusion of what it all means.
-Erin Daley, LA Theatre Review