July 30, 2004




An 18th century Philadelphia story


Alternately teasing and trying, K.C. Davis' ghoulish new mystery, "Raree," somehow keeps our interest even after it passes all understanding.


Set in 1747 Philadelphia among a household of sisters, the action revolves around the arrival of a disheveled, discursive English poet (Kelly Boulware). For simpering Faith (Krista K. Carpenter), he's a sort of mail-order heartthrob; for bitter Charity (Heather De Sisto), unhappily married to a meek pastor (Ira Steck), he's a possible plaything. Also stirred by his presence, for murky reasons of her own, is housemaid Megan (Jenni Kirk).


In the mix are a ghostly redcoat (Matt Saunders), a blustery uncle (David Grammer) and--to round out the references to Chekhov and St. Paul--a third sister named Hope (Samantha Montgomery).


To realize the doggedly specific if enigmatic world of Davis' play, director Thomas Craig Elliott demands wonders of Theatre/Theater's tiny space, with Paul Pape's set and Matt Richter's lights straining a bit to suggest multiple settings and create a sense of foreboding.


The actors, particularly the dissipated Boulware and the dour, stoic Montgomery, acquit themselves well with Davis' literate, often aphoristic dialogue.


Unfortunately there's too much of it, and too little of it to a discernible purpose. Davis has a knack for creating unpredictable characters and disarming our expectations, but he uses it too liberally. By the end we're not sure what story he's been telling us or why.


That we wish we knew is a testament to a promising young company, Meadows Basement, which has mounted a credible production of an incredible play.


-- Rob Kendt


"Raree," Meadows Basement at Theatre/Theater, 6425 Hollywood Blvd., Theatre A, Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. $15. (323) 782-6218. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.