>down the road by luna-id

>reviewed by musa fazal

>date: 8 nov 2001
>time: 8pm
>venue: the guinness theatre, the substation
>rating: ***

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


In DOWN THE ROAD, a husband and wife writing team, Dan and Iris Henniman, are hired to write the biography of William Reach, a convicted murderer of at least 19 young women. As each bloodcurdling detail of these murders is exposed, the Hennimans are drawn further and further into the twisted psyche of William Reach and eventually find themselves confronting serious questions on publishers' ethics and the public's fascination with serial killers.

This morbid fascination with serial killers is interestingly contrasted in the play against Iris Henniman's comic fixation with their neighbour's water heater. Also, as Dan Henniman begins to see pieces of himself in the jigsaw he reconstructs of William Reach's mind, we begin to see William Reach physically invading Dan's private space, sitting in his chair to watch TV, lying in his bed beside his wife.

Lee Blessing's story succeeds in the end because it is terrifying and fascinating all at once to think that when we start to explore the motivations of murderers and madmen, when we go down that road, we might actually find no space, no distance at all between us and them.

>>'"If last night didn't get you pregnant, nothing will" wins a modest titter'

But while the story succeeds, the production fares less well. Christian Huber, director of this latest offering by luna-id got the nod for Best Director last year from the good people at 'Life!' for another Lee Blessing play, 'Eleemosynary'. All the more reason then to feel disappointed that the award-winning director breaks no new ground with this production.

The set is mildly interesting, with William Reach's prison cell raised on a platform directly behind the Henniman's bed so that it seems to loom over them even in their most intimate moments. And the music is quite good - a very tentative melody that adds just that right dash of suspense. But something about the pace and the intensity of the play is lacking.

It could just be the actors. Mark Waite and Rasiah Raslyn put in unremarkable performances as Dan and Iris. Well, to be fair, there are moments. Waite's line, "If last night didn't get you pregnant, nothing will," wins a modest titter. And at one point Reach says to Iris Henniman, "Don't ask me why questions. Ask me how questions," to which she responds, poker-faced, "How come you don't like why questions?" Bravo.

But it was Rehaan Engineer's portrayal of William Reach that was really the most outstanding part of the play. Rehaan manages, better than the others, to display versatility in his portrayal of emotions and he has a certain hungry intensity about his gaze that makes the very story of a charismatic serial killer believable.

On the whole though what we end up with is a play that seems tedious and bland when it should be bristling with dry wit and sharp insights. Too many good lines in this play drew little more than a polite hiccup of a laugh. This play needed to be harder, louder and faster right from the very beginning.