Shut up and...

Thor's Day

By Edward Crosby Wells
Directed by Steve Thornburg
Wings Theatre Company
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Jenny Sandman

First produced in 1997, Thor's Day is a new sort of thriller, one that blends the terror of the everyday unknown with the more powerful supernatural unknown. Set on the West Texas-New Mexico border, it examines the strength of both latent and overt desire.

Phillip, a middle-aged insurance salesman, picks up a dark and dangerous young man outside a porn shop and brings him home for an illicit afternoon tryst. But Buck is more dangerous than Phillip supposes; possibly supernatural, he is a bad boy, a redneck with three kids who may or may not have killed his own wife. He talks, talks, talks while Phillip shrinks and retreats, wanting to move forward with the encounter but afraid of both Buck and his own yearnings. Phillip is uptight and nervous, his gay tendencies long suppressed. Gradually Buck breaks down his resistance, as the play builds to a strange and startling climax.

It's not a play for those uncomfortable with frank sexual situations (especially the nontraditional kind), but after six seasons of Sex and the City one-night stands should have lost some of their shock value. However, Thor's Day isn't really about a one-night stand. If that were the case, there would be more sex and less talking. For those unfamiliar with illicit trysts, anonymous encounters tend to be just that -- anonymous, without so much talking and sharing of personal information. Phillip and Buck talk so much that their sexual activity seems more of an afterthought, not their raison d'être. This lends the play an added surreal air-a sexy situation without the merest crackling of sexual tension.

As a result, Phillip (John Rengstorff) comes off as whimpering and weak, while Buck (Adam Mervis) seems to have the voice and charisma of a faith healer -- it's a Tennessee Williams play without a woman. As it is, these portrayals work fine -- the characters should be mirror opposites of each other, though in a perfect world, they would be less diametrically opposed.

Wings Theatre Company gave the play a strong remounting, featuring a correctly drab Southwestern living room set by Robert Monaco and fierce stormy music and sound by Tom Hasselwander. The lightning (Sean Linehan) and thunder became a bit droll by play's end, but overall, the strong production values boosted the intense acting choices. Director Steve Thornburg seemed to have concentrated largely on bringing out the men's underlying hostilities through body language, rather than on pacing or character development, but the play as a whole was still enthralling at times.

Overall, Thor's Day came off with mixed results. It moved slowly, and is almost ruthlessly loquacious. The climax was surprising but oddly unsatisfying, perhaps owing to the story's lack of denouement. But playwright Edward Crosby Wells has built a solid story on an exciting and original premise, and both actors show promise and ability

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 1
Lighting: 1/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2004 Jenny Sandman