"In a Forest, Dark and Deep" (Profiles Theatre): Brother vs Sister Smackdown!

"In a Forest, Dark and Deep" (Profiles Theatre): Brother vs Sister Smackdown!

“Truth hurts, don’t it?’ -Bobby and Betty’s family motto

#84.  Profiles Theatre presents the American premiere of IN A FOREST, DARK AND DEEP.  Betty needs to move out of her cabin.  She recruits her brother Bobby to pack.  They haven’t spent any time together lately.  Betty thinks Bobby is a loud-mouth, judgmental Neanderthal.  Bobby thinks Betty is an uptight, dishonest, intellectual shrew.  She drinks wine.  He drinks beer.  Within five minutes of his arrival, they are tormenting each other with childhood animosity.  Their shared past makes for a hostile environment. They don’t trust each other. Bobby wants the real story on the sudden need for relocation.   He demands the truth.  As Bobby pushes, Betty unravels.  At first, her explanation has a few lose threads.  But as the stormy night continues, Betty’s story has huge gaping holes.  IN A FOREST, DARK AND DEEP, a brother and sister unsnarl the past to detangle the present for a twisted future.

Playwright Neil LaBute penned a tale of sibling rivalry.  His dialogue is cruelly authentic.      His characters are wickedly flawed.  The banter engages with a multiple layer dissection.  The show is *billed* as a thriller.  I guessed the ultimate secret within the first ten minutes.  Is it because I’m weirdly sensitive to scams? Or did LaBute not bury it deep enough?  Despite the lack of edgy unknown, the show still is a fascinating back-n-forth dynamic between brother and sister.  Under the expert direction of Joe Jahraus, Darrel Cox (Bobby) meets his match with Natasha Lowe (Betty).

LaBute’s characters are perfect Profiles’ staged personas:  raging, tense, egocentric.  Nobody does blistering confrontation like Profiles.  (I’m always wary of someone getting it with a chicken bone.)  And Cox is the master of in-your-face emotion.  A fiercely passionate Cox escalates with flailing wild accusations. He’s out-of-control fury! But the brilliance of his performance is his ability to balance it with this laid-back, likable, Texas drawling guy.  Cox provides the softer side of an antagonist with humor and vulnerability.  He’s The Man! It’s hard to find an equal sparring partner for Cox…until now!  Lowe controls the story and the room.  Her continual sporadic disclosure makes her delivery even more impressively diabolical.  She shifts between misunderstood victim and cold-hearted, manipulating bitch.  The fight between Cox and Lowe is so in-the-moment and so in-the-room… that I’m biting my tongue to stop from interfering.

Profiles premieres this show in its new home, The Main Stage.  Set Designer Thad Hallstein inaugurates the space with the Profiles’ signature look.  Hallstein creates a pure Americana living area complete with kitchen.  The attention to homespun detail welcomes the audience with an almost surreal vibe.  I feel like I’m in Profiles’ old space but it magically got bigger and slanted differently.  Big nod out to Sound and Music Designer Jeffrey Levin for his crackling and booming thunder.  I may not have been shocked by the show’s big reveal but I was startled every time by the thunder.

Ah, revisiting a painful childhood accompanied by a sibling who won’t let you forget it.  Truth hurts, don’t it?  IN A FOREST, DARK AND DEEP is kind of like “Hansel and Gretel” without the candy house but there is still a mean ole witch.

Production photograph courtesy of Wayne Karl

Running Time:  One hundred and five minutes includes a fifteen minute delayed start with no intermission

Profile’s Theatre, The Main Stage, 4139 N. Broadway

Written by Neil LaBute

Directed by Joe Jahraus

Thursdays, Fridays at 8pm

Saturdays at 5pm and 8pm

Sundays at 7pm

Thru June 3rd

Buy Tickets at www.profilestheatre.org

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