Kill Me Don’t Go by the Workhaus Collective performing at the Playwrights Center

Neal Skoy, Sara Richardson, Patrick Bailey and Cheryl Willis in Kill Me Don’t Go. Photo by Rich Fleischman.

Looking for something congenial?  Sweet-tempered and entertaining?  A play to reinforce your values, to send you strolling into the chilly evening, smiling, “Why, yes, I know those people well.  They’re just like me.”  If this is what you require I would recommend a trip to St. Paul to see Latté Da’s Company.  It’s excellent.

Because Trista Baldwin‘s powerful and frightening Kill Me Don’t Go (Workhaus Collective, performing as always at the Playwrights Center, through Nov 17) will not be your cup o’ tea.  This play surges with unrelenting and remorseless  energy.  It never lets go (“I’m not done. / Neither am I.”)  It bristles with anger (“Fuck you for saying I hate you.”).  With rich language (“Life is filled with tiny rivers of pain, with puddles of pleasure.”)

This piece cannot be reduced to a neat reviewer recap.  So I’m not going to make the attempt.  All I’ll say is that Kill Me Don’t Go deals with primeval material: marriage, birth, parental instinct, sex.  Workhaus bills the play as a “brutal comedy.”  Perhaps it is; many people were laughing.  The play struts and howls.  Sledgehammer Pinter.  My advice: take a deep breath, and go.

Director Leah Cooper fills the stage with plastic tarps over which the characters constantly trip.  This makes for a weird effect, as though we’ve wandered into a strange construction project.  She uses shadows effectively, as the characters walk past the colored scrims.  Characters move constantly, creating an on-target theatrical breathlessness.  Great credit is due the designers – settist John Francis Bueche, lighter Michael Wangen, sounder C. Andrew Mayer, costumist Annie Cady and proper Sarah Salisbury – for doing excellent work with Workhaus’s limited budget.

I noted a program credit for Blood Consultant (Sean McArdle).  What, I wondered, could a “blood consultant” offer?  Of course I’m not going to reveal the answer, but it’s nifty.

As Marcella, Cheryl Williams is blowsy and blustery, given to wild shrieking and over-the-top anger.  As Richard (Marcella’s husband) Patrick Bailey underplays his part and tends to fold in on himself (this is, btw, in no way a criticism of Mr. Bailey’s excellent work).  Thus (and I don’t know if Baldwin and Cooper intended this) Marcella “wins”; she emerges as the one we identify with.  Marcella and Richard pull us in with one hand while they shove us away with the other, as when kissing suddenly becomes sordid fucking (the only word for it) on the floor.  All in all, their work is terrifically creepy.

Neal Skoy and the ever-evanescent Sara Richardson play the younger characters.  My favorite part of the play is the second act, when Joy and Ethan fully come into their own.  Skoy and Richardson make the dense – and highly sexual material – fly.  Lovely.

One recommendation: see Kill Me Don’t Go on an empty stomach.  Be as hungry as the play.

For more info about John Olive please visit his website.

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