Theatre Review: The elements come together for "Hive Mind"
There’s something Lynchian about Hive Mind, the latest Rorschach Beast production; the suggestion of the mundane and the inexplicable working in perfect tandem to unearth truths nobody wants to confront.
The supernatural force at work here, in the small town of St. Augustine (it's always a small town), is a box housing pure, unknowable energy; it's likened to a beehive, or perhaps it's literally a beehive. Anyway, when opened it hums and vibrates with power, sometimes unleashing an otherworldly messenger in the form of Hayley, a sixteen year old girl whose mysterious disappearance unnerves the small town and gets the plot rolling. The beehive compels most who gaze into it to join with its essence. Its essence is something that will erase their pain, their personality, and finally their body.
When any given character is under the spell of the light, there's lots of high-minded hippy prattle about "being one with the light", but the subtext is clear enough: they'd rather blissfully die than do the work to overcome their pain. Whether anybody is capable of grasping this truth will determine whether the town will survive or not.
Take Austin and Kate. He's a political candidate who suffered a humiliating loss, she's an accomplished cop still smarting from childhood scars, and both are susceptible to the beehive’s seductive thrall because neither receive the respect they desperately crave. But upon bathing in its holy light, their unhappiness melts away.
Curiously, Austin’s boyfriend Dale, a grouchy but decent cop, is resistant to the light’s mysterious power. Maybe it's because he loves St. Augustine so much that when the town begins to crumble in the face of this overwhelming force, it only fuels his desire to take greater action; that is, he's already under a thrall of a more understandable sort. His moustache is bushy and stern, and he’s probably not much of a laugh at parties, but he wears nobility well and gives us something to root for.
And because Dale – a sketch of a character, a virtue -- is filled out so believably through St. John Cowcher’s sensitive performance, he single-handedly convinces us that there’s something important to lose as he flails against undermining forces. Charlotte Otton as Kate and Haydon Wilson as Austin expertly detail their agonising descents into oblivion. Across the board, the performances fulfil the promise of the writing.
But it might be Alicia Oyska as Jacqui, the relentlessly cheery and greedy town leader of St. Augustine, who steals the show. Oyska’s sharp comic timing and exuberant portrayal of self-absorption provides colourful bursts of hilarity to what is a pretty dark tale.
Geordie Crawley's direction is solid, but it’s his writing that grants emotional texture to this fantastical story of dark seduction -- or perhaps enlightenment. To Crawley's credit, he never clarifies if it's one or the other, or indeed if there is much of a difference. Lighting Designer Scott McArdle and Composer Robert Woods’ work makes the stage feel like an actual place populated by people who are not there. It’s a sumptuous production, where all the elements add up to something memorable and strange.
"Hive Mind" will run at the Blue Room Theatre until May 19.