Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Gentle. It was based on the story "The Meek One: A Fantastic Story" by F. M. Dostoevsky. It was adapted and directed by Zeljko Djukic. It was about a Pawnbroker (Tom Dacey Carr) who marries an immigrant (Dani Tucker) to save her from having to marry a trucker. It is basically about their relationship and how it ends and all the regrets he has about how he treated her. I thought that this was a really moving and intriguing play. I'd never read the short story but I was really compelled to because I was so engaged with these characters. I thought they had amazing actors that made the story so compelling.
I thought the set (by Kurtis Boetcher), the lights (by Keith Parham), the sound (by Jeffrey Levin), and directing speech to the audience all melded well together to make you feel really invested in the play but from an outside perspective. The set was a very pristine, white, shiny room. But they had this white curtain that they put aside to unveil a window that was dirty and old. I thought that it kind of seemed like a metaphor to me about relationships. Every relationship has a disgusting window even though the rest of it might seem perfect and shiny. The lights when you first watch the room just seem normal. But then they would just flicker. And it made you feel uncomfortable but I think that was great because it immersed you more in the play. It kind of foreshadowed that things would look great for awhile in the play, but then they would flicker and you would see that something wasn't right. The sound also seemed sort of trippy and unsettling. There was beautiful classical-sounding music but it felt like it kept getting louder while the play was generally quiet. The direct address also added to the creepy feature of the play because it felt like they were talking to you but then they would just snap back into the scene in their world. Which I guess must have been how the Girl felt when her husband was shutting her out of his life, but then there were moments that he would talk to her like an actual human.
The scene where their relationship changes from acquaintance to a commitment is the scene where he proposes to her. But to get to this scene he has to walk through the frame that the rest of the stage is in. I thought that was actually kind of terrifying because it was so unexpected. You didn't imagine anyone would cross those boundaries. It told you that the next scene was going to take place after he has crossed boundaries in his mind. The family the Girl lives with has a very poised maid named Lukerya (Lauren Demerath) who is basically telling the Pawnbroker all the reasons he should marry the Girl. She gets very excited for the new couple, and I thought she was kind of a comic relief. But you never see her like that again because it is not funny for much longer. I thought it was really sweet to see the Girl's quirk that she had when he proposed. She said, "I have to think" and chewed her candy that she had gotten from the truck driver kind of secretly while she thought. I think he asks her to marry her because he feels bad for her but also because he really likes her. But I think he is worried about liking her, so he kind oppresses her and pushes her away when she tries to show affection towards him. And that is going to make her feel less comfortable around him.
People who would like this show are people who like crossing boundaries, thinking with candy, and metaphor-windows. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. It has great acting, great tech, and a great story. It was amazing to watch and I loved it.
Photos: Austin D. Oie