Spotlight: Ligustrum Vulgare
Neighbors Phillip (Tim Cameron) and Malcolm (Adam Hegg) find themselves in similar straits: One is a divorced dad living on his own, the other a lonely widower with his wife's ashes in a coffee can. You might hope they would commiserate over the titular hedge that divides their gardens, but instead they cultivate a mutual loathing that pushes each deeper into his particular abyss. It sounds on the surface like a wrist-slitter of an evening, but this short work, developed collaboratively and directed by Jon Ferguson, instead plunges into American alienation in order to exorcise it. Ultimately, the show argues persuasively for connection by displaying the sick hollowness of its absence. Cameron and Hegg deliver much of their dialogue in depressive monotone, wringing uncanny humor out of their inability to muster a basic connection. And Cameron is affecting in his scenes with Phillip's daughter (Julia Kindal), who sweetly relays the news of her days while her dad stares blankly into the mirror of nothingness. Katie Kaufmann tackles a handful of roles with acerbic energy: She's a lovelorn landlord, a ghostly wife, and a jogger who appears out of nowhere at regular intervals, lost in her one-track existence and muttering self-improvement platitudes before charging off. Abstract vignettes chop up the work: Malcolm's late-night slow dance with his deceased wife tastes of the bitter beauty of loss, while a sequence in which the two neighbors repeatedly murder one another leaves the actors looking mildly embarrassed. Still, it's a show with enough awareness to use "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" as both a hearty slab of fromage and as a poignant demonstration of a character's memories. While Ligustrum Vulgare is hardly a statement of grand purpose—the program notes report that the production was cooked up in four weeks—this is a work of theater that evokes the nauseous regard people develop for one another when alienation sets in. Don't go home alone!
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