Blasted

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Any spoiler-haters out there? Tough luck: Sarah Kane’s British shocker Blasted features a hotel-room explosion; eyeballs gouged out and eaten; a baby who dies, later also to be consumed; and various graphic tableaux involving masturbation, defecation and anal rape by pistol. I ought to apologize for ruining the surprise, but really, you expected all this, right? Kane’s 1995 debut has been a ridiculously long time coming to New York, and anyone who’s read it or seen her other plays here (Crave, 4:48 Psychosis), have likely been waiting for someone to produce this hellish intermingling of private violations and global horror. After September 11, after the invasion of Iraq, after Abu Ghraib, after Hurricane Katrina, we need Blasted. So now Soho Rep’s Sarah Benson has directed the New York premiere; and yes, it was worth the wait.

Here is a vision of contemporary Western horror delivered with full force and total commitment, in a blazingly lucid production. However, is Kane’s ambitious compound of Bond, Pinter and Beckett a play for the ages? Blasted was penned by a young, tortured writer out to shock (she committed suicide in 1999 at age 28), but what a thrilling beginning it is.

Benson’s fearless actors all give intensely raw yet technically adept performances. Marin Ireland is Cate, a stuttering, epileptic young woman in the clutches of Ian (Birney, vile yet totally human), a gin-swilling, racist tabloid hack who may be a government hit man. The first half of Blasted is a slow-paced, seedy portrait of this miserable twosome in a hotel room in Leeds, England. Then, without warning, Kane crashes an unspecified foreign conflict into the room, in the form of a soldier (Cancelmi) who breaks in, then rapes and tortures Ian. I won’t give anything more away, except to say that gritty realism cedes to a more symbolic, absurdist realm, resulting in a harrowing tragic vision. Blasted’s time has come.

Soho Rep By Sarah Kane. Dir. Sarah Benson. With Reed Birney, Marin Ireland, Louis Cancelmi. 1hr 50mins. No intermission.

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