Confusion, murder, disorder and farce create a mysterious world where you never know what’s waiting just around the corner. The Killer is an enigmatic production led by Oscar-nominated Michael Shannon and guided by director Darko Tresnjak.
The Killer writted by Eugène Ionesco, with a translation by Michael Feingold, tells the story of Berenger (Shannon), an everyman who encounters a “Radiant City” which seems too good to be true. It is – there is a serial murderer wandering the streets, and the city officials have given up on actually apprehending him. But Berenger’s quest to stop the murderer leads him down some interesting paths.
Oscar nominated Michael Shannon stars in this production and is an incredible grounding element in a story full of strange and shadowy elements. He deftly weaves in and out of varying moods and physical shifts, skipping around and turning cartwheels one minute and morosely slumped over the next. He keeps the production from going completely over the top.
Other acting stand-outs were Kristine Nielson as the Concierge/Ma Piper and Robert Stanton as The Architect. Nielson brought a sharp burst of humor into the second and third acts that deftly sharpened the tone of humor. Her antics were written as over the top, but Nielson skillfully grounded her characters in a way that most of the cast didn’t accomplish. Stanton was wonderful in the first act as The Architect, a salesperson like bureaucrat whose easy-going charm entices both Berenger and the audience to the delights of the Radiant City. I was saddened to have him benched offstage after the first act.
The Killer was carefully directed by Darko Tresnjak. As he noted in the program, the script was “smothered in instructions.” And there was a lot in the script – light directions, sound directions, turn tables, entrances from all angles and so much more. I particularly loved the slight 4th wall breakings that would happen from time to time – ideally suited for the space which has the audience on three sides of the stage. To find the focus in that is an amazing feat, especially in a show that clocks in at a little over three hours. And the script doesn’t let the time pass quickly, particularly in the last act, with a 15-20 minute speech by Berenger that Tresnjak moved along a bit with clever shifts of staging. The sound and lighting design by Jane Shaw and Matthew Richards, respectfully, was wonderfully integrated into the telling of the story.
In such a purposefully cacophonous production, some elements didn’t have the chance to really come together. Some of the acting was a bit stiff and absurd without proper motivation or reasoning which lead to emotional disconnect. The thing that most stuck out to me was the makeup job on Edward (Paul Sparks). In a production full of lovely subtle production design, why Edward’s makeup featured white foundation and heavy eyeshadow that made him look like a poor man’s Penguin is beyond me.
All in all, The Killer is a mysterious show that makes for an interesting night out at the theatre. Michael Shannon and director Darko Tresnjak are pulling out all the stops and for that, The Killer makes its mark.The Killer will be running through June 29th at the Theatre for a New Audience at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center on 262 Ashland Place in Brooklyn.
Review By: Chrissy Cody
Photos By: Gerry Goodstien