Three lost souls relive their worst moments in Morgan McNaught’s new play.
A new work by Morgan McNaught, The Terrible is a bleak psychological thriller with a lot of ambition but a lack of logic. The play focuses on three “dead” characters trapped in purgatory. They're held captive in a single room by a shrink/caretaker (Andrew Hobgood), who forces them to relive the worst moment of their life with every click of his ballpoint pen.
The Terrible is rapidly paced, oscillating between moments of pleasure and moments of torture. These oscillations are tempered by a precise design that distinguishes the varying modes. Morgan Lake’s impeccable sound design and Claire Chrzan’s elaborate light design allow us to quickly understand the routine behind daily life in purgatory.
Though the New Colony doesn't acknowledge the resemblance, it’s impossible to watch The Terrible without noticing the structural and thematic similarities to Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit. There’s one key difference that brings out the terrible in The Terrible: In Sartre’s play, there’s a clear sense of logic, intention, and purpose behind every power shift and dramatic escalation.
In McNaught’s play, the plot twists and turns follow essentially the same trajectory, but the logic fails to resonate. There's a physical exit on stage, but it’s never clear why the constant torture endured inside the room is less painful than the fleeting moments of torture required to leave the room. The characters feel more like caricatures than doomed souls. They lack a genuine sense of humanity, making it difficult for us to feel anything for them, let alone hatred.
The New Colony at the Den Theatre. By Morgan McNaught. Directed by Jesse Roth. With Andrew Hobgood, Jessica London-Shields, Shariba Rivers, Chris Fowler. Running time: 1hr 15mins; no intermission.