Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Mercury Fur

Two brothers come into a deserted room strewn with debris. Elliot is clearly the leader, smart and full of authority. Darren is the ne'er-do-well, slow-witted and stoned. They are preparing for some sort of party. Elliot starts cleaning up and badgers Darren to clean up as well. They argue. They bicker. They say "fuck" and "fucking" about a million times. Elliot in particular uses a form of English I would label as "faux-lyrical ugly." Little by little we learn that ugliness is the state of their apocalyptic world. And the party will not be a joyous occasion.

Jack DiFalco, Zane Pais
Photo: Monique Carboni 
Philip Ridley's play Mercury Fur (directed by Scott Elliott) explores the struggle for humanity in an inhumane world, and parts of it are hard-hitting and thought-provoking. It runs over 2 hours without an intermission and would be well-served by some judicious trimming, particularly in the first half hour. The dialogue is not always intelligible, which is a tremendous weakness in such a verbal work. Many stories are told, and while they are well-written, they eventually hurt the play's momentum. The cast is uniformly strong: they are Jack DiFalco, Bradley Fong, Paul Iacono, Peter Mark Kendall, Emily Cass McDonnell, Sea McHale, Zane Pais, and Tony Revolori.

[here be spoilers]
According to the New York Times, Mercury Fur was quite controversial in its London run and "spurred several friends to break with Mr. Ridley; his publisher, Faber & Faber, refused to issue the script." I find this surprising. Yes, the play is brutal. Yes, it shows the depths to which people will sink when they have no options. Yes, it does occasionally veer into the gratuitous. But it is ultimately, I think, a deeply moral work. The main characters have done horrible things to survive, but here they discover their limits.

The parties in Mercury Fur allow sadists to indulge their most repulsive fantasies, and Elliot and Darren have been complicit in torture and murder of strangers. But when someone they know becomes the victim, they can no longer play along, even though they've just met him. They've interacted enough to recognize his humanity. So they save him, at the literal cost of their own lives.

[end of spoilers]
At the beginning of Mercury Fur, I was pretty sure I was going to hate it. I ended up respecting it (enjoying it is simply not an option). I think a 90-minute version might be brilliant and devastating.

(third row on the aisle; press ticket)

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