Cal Barnes’ two-hander is a wild ride pitting former junkies with a past in a room that ticks down the time like a bomb ready to explode. It doesn’t hurt that his actors and director are all from last year’s ‘Best of Fringe’ “Pulp Shakespeare” with Brett Colbeth charmingly playing Henry Donner, an evangelical preacher with a Bible and a former rocker sensibility and Gowrie Hayden posing as a curious stranger with a husky, temptress quality. Intrigued, Henry agrees to a spiritual Q&A that turns ugly, dark and violent despite his efforts to put his past and his demons behind him. What begins as a jilted lover seeking answers and apologies segues into a blistering, biting power play of escalating emotional proportions.
Barnes deftly hurdles over exposition while still keeping the audience guessing as to what will happen next. Both characters are a fascinating composite of faith, but what they hold true isn’t enough to shield them from each other and their toxic relationship. With every new reveal, small hairline cracks in Henry’s assuredness begins to show until they become fissures, his world shattered by one, unredeemable but telling decision. Aaron Lyons uses the tight office set well although Brett is occasionally too trapped from behind his desk. Given the density in this play, Lyons consciously allows a nice variety in the pace that lends an additional layer of suspense. Excellent fight choreography heightens the action up through to the crushing dénouement. Mean, lean and full of hard punches, “Rise” is a surefire attention grabber that doesn’t let go. If you liked Neil LaBute’s “Mercy Seat” then sit down for this intense trip.
Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, CA on Friday, June 15 at 7pm; June 16 @ 10pm; June 19 at 8:30pm; June 22 at 8:30pm; June 23 at 4pm; and June 24 at 4pm. Tickets: $12. 310-902-3142; www.hollywoodfringe.org/744 or visit www.zenithensemble.com
Reviewed by MR Hunter, reprinted courtesy of www.eyespyla.com
About the Author: