The House Can't Stand

Dominique Serrand

The House Can't Stand begins at a sort of terminus: An unnamed older woman (Steve Epp, performing solo throughout the evening) arrives in her lonely kitchen, even her bag of groceries somehow seeming forlorn. She begins speaking to the audience in nervous, self-effacing asides that spell out her plight: Her husband of 37 years has recently died, and her offspring are spread to the four winds. She lives in an emotional void, aching for laughter, conversation, and sex. When her phone rings and a man named John is on the line, in due course our heroine has a date for a play—and it's here that, happily, the work diverges from linear narrative. After a minor car accident, Epp's lonely lady wanders an increasingly strange American landscape, into a wrecked, mythic Hoovertown, and then into the bed of Abraham Lincoln (not a noted historical lothario, but at times one takes it where one gets it). Epp penned the script, which draws out an American allegory between the strife-torn Civil War and the election of the country's first black president. Turns out this is an explicitly political work, less interested in scoring points for either Red-Blue tribal side than in noting the untenable prospect of maintaining national sanity in the face of such a split. And when we finally learn the real identity of John on the phone, the narrative begins to feel like an eerie cry of warning over national wounds unhealed, schisms not mended, and the spasms of violence that go hand in hand with the deepest American divisions. The work is performed with very minimal props and a handful of well-devised video projections by director Dominique Serrand. Given the scope of the imaginative landscape here, leaving the audience to fill in the visual blanks seems prudent. Where the real problem arises is in the narrative's delivery: It feels as though Epp the writer hasn't done the best service for Epp the performer. His female character is entirely plausible, full of little subversive edges and a simple integrity that makes her increasingly likable and real. But the danger of a show about meandering a landscape is that it might well meander, and here it does, amid too much repetition and circling of a profound series of political and spiritual insights. The House is only 90 minutes, but it feels longer (not a good sign). The stretches of real transcendence outweigh the tedium, but not in as great a proportion as they should. $20-$25; ages 25 and under $10-$15; 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; U of M Rarig Center, 330 21st Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.624.2345. Through May 29 —Quinton Skinner

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