The director’s note for Blasted reads, “Please do not look away from me. Please take me with you when you go.” These are words of warning, as the violent, visceral intensity of Blasted tempts the audience to shut their eyes – anything to be spared the emotional assault. Blasted, by playwright Sarah Kane, runs April 13-16 at Production Workshop.
At first glance, Blasted tells a story of combat and sexual violence in war-torn England, though more contentious themes run underneath. The play forces the audience to confront the truth about “what it takes to love and accept human life, given what we try to deny about it,” said director Sam Barasch ’12.
At the start of the play, Cate (Audrey Ellis Fox ’12, Valerie Hsiung ’12 and Lizzie Stanton ’13) is seemingly alone in a hotel room. Littered throughout the hotel room are items familiar to the audience – newspapers, cigarettes, flowers and alcohol on the table. But these are only scattered remnants of known society, because the world she inhabits is far darker than the audience may have first believed.
Cate and Ian (Audrey Ellis Fox ’12, Valerie Hsiung ’12, Lizzie Stanton ’13, David Lee Dallas ’13 and the voice of Conor Kane ’14) are at odds, and the audience quickly senses the nature of their relationship. Ian’s first lines are read out over a loudspeaker, and Ian is seen as both a literal and metaphorical figure of power as the play begins.
The audience senses the constant force of the destruction of the outside world in the characters’ lives. This permeation becomes literal in the second scene, when a soldier (David Lee Dallas ’13) enters the hotel room.
Owing to the masterful staging, the audience becomes immediately involved in the world of the play. White scaffolding, shaped into a pair of lungs, engulfs the entire stage. When the play begins, the skeletal enclosure inspires and expires, contracting and expanding, as the characters clutch the lungs from the inside.
Despite the violence of the war-ravaged country, the action of the play takes place in this isolated setting. Interplay between three central characters – Cate, Ian and the soldier – escalates to rape and other violence within the hotel room as the battle rages outside. The cleverness of the staging is such that the increasingly violent interactions between characters reflects the growing disease of the lungs onstage.
In a particularly disturbing scene, the soldier, reeling from the murder of his girlfriend, rapes Ian before sucking out his eyes. “It’s nothing,” the soldier says. Nothing, perhaps, compared to the brutality of war he witnessed – stories of rape, cannibalism and child abandonment plague the soldier as the recounts the scenes of war outside.
Barasch made “a very non-traditional casting choice,” he said, in casting three actresses in the role of Cate and choosing not to cast an actor for the role of Ian. His casting choice is particularly effective because the interweaving of roles symbolizes the commonality of pain and suffering. “Everyone in town is crying,” Cate says when she returns from outside.