By D. A. Blackburn
The Abreact is a theater company known for tackling inventive, unconventional works. This season, it has also become known as a theater without a home. With its latest offering, “Tongues” and “Savage/Love,” an intimate two-piece evening of performed poetry by Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin, The Abreact has created a unique showcase for three talented actors, and christened a new performance space, The Gryphon Theatre.
“Tongues” and “Savage/Love” are a good fit for The Abreact, and for the new space. They are bare-bones, black-box works – more poetry than theater, really. The Gryphon, located above The Park Bar in downtown Detroit, is at this point, only semi-finished. It is not yet ready for full-scale productions, but it is spacious by Abreact standards, and functions well for this type theater.
“Tongues” is, in essence, a series of wide-ranging monologues set against a percussionist. A single actor (Richard Rischar) recites the entire piece, covering a variety of characters, voices and perspectives. It is a demanding work, requiring a profound understanding of the poetry, and the emotions that fill it. Rischar navigates the work with poise and confidence, able to shift from one narrative to the next with a fluid grace.
Accompanying Rischar on percussion, Michael Feidler, too, seems to know his way around the poetry. The percussion, which is woven tightly into Shepard and Chaikin’s script, is as emotive as the language. Feidler’s touch here is excellent.
The evening’s second half, “Savage/Love” is a two-player dialogue charting the highs and lows of love. It is also set against a percussion backdrop by Feidler, and saxophone and flute work by Michael Rollin. Sarah Galloway and Mike McGettigan are a fine pair as Girl and Man, fighting and loving with conviction. The work is an exceptional showcase for McGettigan, particularly, as it affords him an opportunity to display an intensity and dramatic flair which is generally overshadowed in his more comedic efforts.
The underlying truth is that this is an unconventional theatrical experience. Both productions play out like drama class exercises with no frills, but for fans of poetry and pure acting, it’s a very satisfying experience.
‘Tongues’ and ‘Savage/Love’
The Abreact at The Gryphon, 2040 Park Ave., Detroit. At various dates through Nov. 29. Tickets: $15. For information: 313-485-0217 or http://www.theabreact.com.