When the Factory Theatre abruptly closed last fall, many of Boston’s fringe theater companies had to find new homes in a hurry. With no place to stage their summer production of “Dying City,” fringe stalwart Happy Medium opted for homegrown theater in the Jamaica Plain condo of the show’s two actors, Kiki Samko and Michael Underhill.
The real-life newlyweds play Kelly, a grieving widow, and Craig/Peter, her deceased husband and his twin brother, in an intimate 80-minute play set in Kelly’s living room. Initially, the experience feels awkward, as you traipse up the steps into the actors’ home, where an audience of 20 watches the play unfold in a performance space usually known as their dining room.
But the intimacy works so well that the familial dysfunction starts to feel like pain you share with the characters. At times, the in-your-face emotions teeter on overpowering, leaving you squirming in your seat.
Part of the production’s authenticity comes from the impeccable execution of everyday household sounds like a ringing doorbell and whistling teakettle. Samko’s Kelly repeatedly fumbles with the TV remote so convincingly you have to wonder how the actress fares when she’s home alone.
Director Cameron Cronin and production manager Mikey DeLoreto nicely choreograph the play’s multitude of entrances, exits and quick costume changes by Underhill in a cramped space, making it all look seamless and natural.
But ultimately it’s the powerful performances of the duo that give this production its weight, not the unusual stage. Using glasses and costume changes to differentiate identical twins may sound cliched, but Underhill imbues each with physical characteristics and emotional traits that make them unique. In one scene, shifting glasses to the top of his head makes the delineation of the two crystal clear.
Samko imbues Kelly with a dark undercurrent of repressed emotions that belie the grieving widow’s outward appearance.
characters Through July 18 Location revealed upon ticket purchase $22 - $35 www.brownpapertickets.com/ event/1238581 www.happymediumtheatre.com wreak havoc and leave nothing but emotional wreckage in the room. The actors, on the other hand, are left with the cleanup.
The “Dying City” actors would appreciate if you would refrain from critiquing the decor.