If you’re at Can Can Wonderland this month, you might find yourself waiting in a bathroom line with several people wearing simple, slightly worn white clothes. You might wonder if it’s a cult, or a protest. As it happens, The Ravagers is a little of both.
Can Can Wonderland
Savage Umbrella has re-conceived its dark drama, first presented in 2011 at the shuttered Hollywood Theater in northeast Minneapolis. As a program note emphasizes, there’s “a new cast, a new space, and even a new ending” for this play by Laura Leffler and Blake E. Bolan, inspired by Aeschylus’ The Supplicants.
The new space is called the X Lab. Situated down a long hallway past Can Can’s cacophonous mini-golf room, the X Lab is a creepy-cool reclaimed room that recedes into darkness, its center punctuated with two lines of support pillars.
It’s an offbeat space for theater, but director Hannah K. Holman embraces the challenges in a creative and eerie production that weaves its own twisted world. Among the pillars, the repetitive motions of the large cast create a hall-of-mirrors effect.
As the story begins, we meet the 50 daughters of King Danaus (Eric Marinus)... well, at least over a dozen of them. As it happens, Danaus’ brother King Aegyptus (David Coral) has 50 sons, and a long-planned mass wedding will unite the brothers and their children in power
over a vast kingdom.
Resentful of the conspicuously enthusiastic Aegyptus, Danaus warns his daughters that their cousins are brutal fiends who will ravage them, and gives each daughter a dagger to slay her husband on their wedding night. That’s Act One; Act Two explores what happens as the plot approaches fruition.
The company has made a specialty of tackling complex issues of power and resistance with outside-the-box stagings and relatable humor. The Ravagers is firmly in that tradition, with the vivid personalities of characters like eldest daughter Hypermnestra (Leffler) and her suspicious sister Amymone (an intense Morgen Chang) emerging from the rigidly routine life enforced by Danaus. Ultimately, the play illustrates the corrosive effects of patriarchy.
It’s an ambitious, while intimate, production; at its best, it’s entrancing, but there are some missteps. The decision to have the performers that play the Aegyptans initially double as Danaids might easily have been abandoned to streamline the story given that it doesn’t carry through to later scenes. The show’s delicate tone also proves difficult to sustain as the play carries on well past the two-hour mark (with intermission).
Still, The Ravagers is a play you won’t soon forget, with an ominous soundscape performed live by multi-instrumentalist Nissa Nordland. Catch it now if you missed it the first time around, or even if you didn’t. After all, you won’t know how it ends.
The X Lab at Can Can Wonderland
755 Prior Ave. N., St. Paul
savageumbrella.org; through March 3