herald

Sunday 21 January 2018

In a Supernatural Vein

A superb cast face down love, fidelity and insanity in this darkly humorous tale, writes PJ NOLAN

TWO husbands. Two wives. One passionate dream, shared -- but not by the appropriate partners. It all starts innocently enough -- Art's tipsy revelation to longtime friend Ben lets loose the unnervingly supernatural. Two couples suddenly find themselves skidding across the familiar landscape of affluent suburbia. Security and reason are tested as dreams and madness gnaw at the edges of apparently comfortable lives.

In Marble, Marina Carr's seventh premiere at the Abbey Theatre, she has fashioned a play where balance is wilfully jettisoned. The symmetry of marriage and friendships skew, free falling between a dreamt ideal of 'white marble' and the 'blue, blue black' of the void. Reliable constructs collapse, like so much ramshackle scaffolding, revealing an intuitive, feral world played out under 'elephant iron' skies.

The characters may live in a city of grey and brown but their language blossoms -- arching to the point of bitterness (an acquired taste, like sloes or quinine). On a desaturated stage, husbands and wives intersperse meticulously carved cynicism with time-honoured repartee of the sexes joined in battle. Their children haunt offstage, mere wisps of conscience.

There are some distracting notes. One character's unusual accent has a tendency to butt into the flow, with some oddly flattened vowels. A magic sofa, almost a fifth cast member, glides into position like a wayward pet, eagerly threatening to shin the other players.

But these flaws are like the smoky veins of marble itself, combining throughout with some wonderfully poetic writing. Any bleakness is streaked with a slate grey humour -- resolving into an ongoing interrogation of the unexamined life. Along the way, a superb cast face down love, fidelity, insanity and, just possibly, redemption.

Bring your partner (or maybe somebody else's).

Marble, by Marina Carr, runs at the Abbey Theatre until Saturday, March 14th. Performances nightly at 7.30pm; Saturday matinee at 2pm HHHII

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