SSC's brutal Garage (차고) builds tension through character.
Seoul Shakespeare Company debuted their new play Garage on Saturday. The three-person show is one of SSC’s rare forays away from plays written by The Bard. At just under an hour, the compact play builds up the drama quickly to a crescendo of tension in the final third.
The story is set in a rural part of southern USA. David and his wife Susan have returned to the garage where his recently deceased father spent much of his time. There, they’re greeted by a ghost from David’s past, Brandon. Despite not being related by blood, Brandon feels a strong kinship towards David’s father having grown close to him following the death of his parents. Dramatic tension rises from David and Brandon as they lament over the relationship they had with David’s father and the effect it had on them growing up.
The show aims to capture a raw energy and use it to deliver its dramatic message. At just shy of 60 minutes, the length of the show contributes to this punchy vigor. Much to the credit of director Michael Downey, Garage has a perpetually charged pacing to it - starting off slow and rushing towards an intense final scene. Just as the audience is beginning to develop a relationship to the characters, the play brings us to our heart-wrenching finale, leaving the audience agasp.
It’s a stripped down show with little in the way of set design. Instead the show relies heavily on character (and as a result, performance) to rally intrigue from the audience. There is however one moment of violent brutality in which Brandon severely cuts himself. It was well done by the production team and was incredibly effective, inciting audible shock from the audience.
The drama of the shows final scenes are boosted by the nuanced lighting. The shifting darkness and the use of nothing but a flashlight reflected the moods of the characters very well. The credit for this goes to Megan Hammond who also acts as stage manager.
The performances from the three actors was nothing short of superb. Lauren Ash-Morgan, Jamie Horan and Jason Cutler all demonstrate a masterful understanding of their characters and, more importantly, their character’s weaknesses.
Jamie Horan (who was excellent in this year’s The Winter’s Tale) nails the insecurities and frustrations of David, a man who lacks the macho toughness that his father and his community have demanded of him. The trauma of his youth seeps into the misanthropy and the bitterness that the character now exhibits. This is delivered well by Horan throughout.
Lauren Ash-Morgan deserves credit both for her contribution as SSC’s artistic director and for her performance as Susan. The character of Susan is presented in harsh contrast to Brandon and David. She acts as the figure of reason in the play. She is also the most likeable character here, drawn in by David’s ambition and driven by sympathy and loyalty. The character is trapped in her world and Ash-Morgan does a great job of translating the increasing frustration and loneliness of Susan who struggles to maintain her warm disposition.
While it’s hard to pick a stand-out performance from the three stars, the tension created by Jason Cutler’s Brandon in the final third may see him edge it. In these scenes, Cutler flips from intensely still to manic and wild with such aplomb that the sense of the unhinged felt by the character washes over the viewers. It really feels that this character is so out of control that he’s capable of anything. His character is the driving force behind the really awe-inspiring aspects of the play and Cutler doesn’t fail to deliver.
What’s interesting about the play is the two character most central to the plot (David and Brandon) are both demonstrably unlikeable. It teases a sense of sympathy for them as victims of their circumstance before pulling the rug from under you. The result of this is a real feeling of authenticity to the show. Garage isn’t interested in ticking the narrative boxes in order to comfort you. It wants to generate a real response from it’s audience and it does this really well.
The ending itself offers no comfortable conclusions and no equilibrium is restored. Despite this, it is extremely satisfying. For the curtain to be drawn at the highest point of tension is a bold move but is effective.
The play runs for one more weekend with two shows this Saturday and two for Sunday. Tickets are still available and we highly recommend you go see it.
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