Review “The Darkness After Dawn” (Factory Theater): Tangled Mystery

Thursday, November 1, 2018 Permalink

The Factory Theater presents THE DARKNESS AFTER DAWN.

Thunder… lightning… a woman covered in blood. This show startles on arrival. (Nod out to Sound Designer Sarah Espinoza for jolting me to attention with a boom.)  

A panicked Allison Cain (Rosemary) is in blood-soaked pajamas. She calls the police to inform them that she has killed an intruder. Immediately following, there is a knock at her door. It’s the police. Blake Dalzin (Renzo) strolls into the apartment. He interrogates Cain with a line of questioning that starts to feel minimally unprofessional. Renzo’s partner (played by Jose Cervantes) bursts into the room followed by Rosemary’s daughter (played by Samantha Newcomb). The women are worried about a dead guy in the bathroom. The guys are fixated on money. The exchange is tense and confusing. What the hell is going on?

Playwright Manny Tamayo has written a crime story heaped heavy in backstory. Initially, I’m intrigued. I’m committed to unraveling the mystery. Why did an intruder break into Rosemary’s place? What kind of money are we talking about? Who is bad? Who is lying? Tamayo’s storytelling doesn’t take us down one path or even two. He drops us in a maze of befuddlement.  

I love a good mystery. I enjoy connecting the dots to reach a conclusion. I’m even a huge Robert Altman fan and I’m okay if some storylines go nowhere. Unfortunately, Tamayo’s zig-zag storytelling keeps me scratching my head about these characters’ choices. Why did she do that? What is he doing? And what does art have to do with it? All the stories get in the way of THE story. It leaves me with multiple unanswered questions.

Director Mandy Walsh (no relation) is skillful in building tension and panic. Two scenes, in particular, left me disconcerted. Although her cast does a good job, their roles get bogged down in complicated storytelling. The emotional connection to the audience gets frayed.  A couple times, Cain and Dalzin are simultaneously talking on phones to unseen individuals. Instead of heightening the intrigue, the technique feels contrived. The moment rings untrue.          

I left THE DARKNESS AFTER DAWN a little rattled. Some of the storytelling is brutally marring. And some of it is still tangled up in my head.               

Running Time: Ninety minutes with no intermission

At Factory Theater, 1623 W. Howard 

Written by Manny Tamayo

Directed by Mandy Walsh

Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm

Sundays at 3pm

Thru December 1st 

Tickets at thefactorytheater.com

Production photos by Michael Courier

For more information and reviews on Chicago theatre, visit Theater in Chicago

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