By Debbie Kagy
The Visceral Company presents Closet Land, a play adapted from the author Radha Bharadwaj’s 1991 film starring Alan Rickman and Madeleine Stowe.
Directed by John McCormick, Closet Land follows the intense story of an innocent young woman (Victoria Rabitcheff) who is interrogated by an assumed government investigator (Wayne Stribling Jr.) on the grounds that her children’s books contain hidden anti-government messages. The agent pushes harder and deeper into the young woman’s mind, oddly charming and caring at one moment, while horrifically sadistic the next. She eventually realizes he will stop at nothing to break her mind, and she has no choice but to escape to the familiar childhood fantasies of her books.
Closet Land is a minimalist production in both set and costumes. A table, some chairs, the casually expected briefcase and a few torture devices are all that’s needed to show the horror that this play evokes. Lara Fisher’s costume design has Rabitcheff slowly stripped down to strongly accentuate the parallel disaster that the character’s mind is experiencing.
Rabitcheff is a pleasure to watch as her character morphs from first strong, scared and innocent, to tortured and desperate — then defiant. Right alongside her, Stribling is a master of manipulation, effectively utilizing multiple voices and body characteristics to bring to life various characters in the woman’s mind. He confuses and distorts the thoughts of the blindfolded “little girl” into believing that she might actually be crazy by taking away her senses of time and trust. McCormick uses sound design skillfully to contrast long moments of complete silence with those of an endlessly repeated phrase designed to break the woman’s mind.
Powerfully directed, Closet Land brings a frighteningly dark story to life in a way that might be all too real.
Closet Land plays Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. June 17 through July 23 at the NoHo Stages located at 4934 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood. Tickets are on sale for $15 in advance and $18 at the door, available at www.thevisceralcompany.com.
Closet Land contains strong content and some violence, and is recommended for mature audiences.