Mother. Daughter. Killer. Lover. Angel. Demon. Bette Midler. Assemblage Theater's debut presentation pulls away the walls that separate these disparate images, leaving behind the revelation that is Terminus.
Mark O'Rowe knows there is darkness in the best of us, and profound decency in the worst. In his Terminus we bear witness to the pain inherent in goodness, the redemption found in the depths of sin. Nine monologues by three characters bob and weave their way around the story, building a frame before slowly crisscrossing through the heart.
Kathi Aleman begins, once a teacher, an estranged mother drawn to the plight of a young woman not unlike her daughter. Nicole Lorayne Lockett's tale slides in alongside, a lonely young woman desperate for some form of companionship, on her way to a terrible fall and a remarkable revelation. And Tim Hoban tears in from the suburbs, a soulless killer whose dark pact sets the stage for the final collision of all three knotted threads.
O'Rowe carves out a masterpiece of the English language, rife with internal rhyme and vividly macabre imagery, and all three players have taken great care to communicate the rhythm and timing inherent in the structure of the words, while not foregoing the intense emotions that blister behind them.
Terminus is not for the faint of heart or ear. To say that the picture it paints is dark is to say that the Puget Sound is moist. It is a play of the most explicit nature available in monologue; the finer points of sex with a demon built entirely of worms, and a truly spectacular disemboweling are among the more vivid moments.
But it is depravity with purpose, a heart amidst the squalor of human moral refuse. Spontaneous heroism may be rewarded with a facial mauling, and the worst fates may befall the most innocent bystanders, but even the most doomed of paths can still twist their way toward discovery and even a kind of redemption, perhaps not true forgiveness, but at least understanding.
The Space, off Opera Alley, is a brilliantly chosen venue for David Domkowski's character-driven direction. Though the folding chairs for the audience are horribly uncomfortable, floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall windows looking out across the Port of Tacoma provide an appropriate backdrop to the tone and story of the play.
Domkowski was absolutely right in his judgment that no existing company in Tacoma would come near Terminus. It is an R-rated script without a doubt. But it is a kind of theater severely lacking in Tacoma, and I desperately hope enough people find it as worthy as I did, that it might spur Assemblage Theatre on to a well-lived life, and a few more shows like this one.
The Space, Terminus, April 20-21, 27-28, 8 P.M., $14.50, 729 CourtC (Opera Alley), Tacoma, facebook.com/assemblagetheater
Stage & Visual Reviews