It’s a chilly night in Brooklyn so I’m walking with a quick step down the tree-lined streets until I arrived at the setting for tonight’s show, a hundred-year-old Victorian mansion. Known as the Beverly Social Club, this mansion was originally built for a doctor but in the 1920s it was home to the Brooklyn Democratic Club and for the last 60 years operates as a synagogue. I walk up the steps and into the lobby and I can feel the history oozing out from the walls. The room to my right holds a casket, funeral seating, an organ and plenty of flowers. I spot an empty seat among the other guests but before I can move towards it, the lights flicker and from the hallway appears the widow to whomever is inside that coffin. As a funeral unfolds around us, the audience is shifted into the role of guest. And that is how I felt, like a witness to someone else’s life, one that I just dropped into.
Tracy Weller plays an extraordinary range of characters that were equally deep and complex from her portrayal of the wounded wife, ominous mindreader and her deeply moving embodiment of a woman who faced with death, struggles to hang onto a love misplaced. Devin Burnam, who is also the playwright, embodied the complexity of the misguided male who views love as a one-sided quest for dominance in order to protect his fragile ego. Tracy and Devin gave outstanding performances but it’s their commitment to each others character that brings the play to life.
Inspired by the true story of Elena Hoyos and Carl Von Cosel, Consumption immerses audiences into the lives of five couples whose quest for love is as misguided as the world around them. On the surface, Consumption is a drama about love and loss but it also highlights how the desire to be loved can blind us to the realities of those we love. Everyone seems to be getting what they think they want, and nobody is happy. The complexity of the human condition is explored throughout the night as we shift between rooms, moving through time with the characters.
The masterful lighting and sound design added a dimension to the space that ranged from the realistic to the surreal. In the stairwell scene, the intimacy was created by the shadows from an overhead lamp and then later we were treated to a magical backroom that served as a wedding banquet hall and the scene of a horrendous act of necrophilia, all culminating in a beautifully potent aria from La Boheme. At times, the subtle sound effects mixed with cabaret-circus style music made me feel like I had walked onto the set of The Shining, where lurking just beneath this wonderful and cosy world, is pure adulterated evil. With perhaps the nicest front of house staff in the city, the experience isn’t scary but it will envelop you from the moment you walk in the front door. On until December 8, 2018.
Photos of Devin Burnam and Tracy Weller by Matthew Dunivan.
Beverly Social Club