Fringe review: 'The Mercy Seat'
By Fiona Zublin
Monday, July 16, 2012
There are timid theatergoers for whom the Capital Fringe Festival is just too much. For those spectators, there are productions like “The Mercy Seat,” one of the few productions at the Fringe of an established, road-tested script.
“The Mercy Seat,” a 10-year-old Neil LaBute play, is about what every other Neil LaBute play is about: how terrible people are to one another and themselves. The characters in “The Mercy Seat” are so unrelentingly nasty to one another that you want to leave the theater and hug a stranger. The play is set on Sept. 12, 2001, and the characters, Ben (Eric Kennedy) and Abby (Devora Zack), are having an affair. Ben hasn’t been home since the disaster 24 hours earlier, and he won’t answer his wife’s phone calls. Zack and Kennedy give energetic performances, but “The Mercy Seat” ultimately feels like a lesser LaBute work.
One thing about doing a Fringe show that doesn’t have an original script: The criteria for judgment differ. When you create a show from the ground up, you can get points from the audience for bravery. Even though “The Mercy Seat” is technically part of the Fringe, it doesn’t have the same organic, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants feeling to it. This show looks and sounds like it could be part of the main stage season at any number of small D.C. theater companies, and while that means it has a bit more polish, it also lessens the charm.