“Stockholm” at 59E59 Theaters (Closed Saturday March 29, 2014)

March 23, 2014 | Off-Broadway | Tags:
Written by Bryony Lavery
Directed by Nick Flint
Choreographed by Natalie Lomonte
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Codependent and cramped in a fantasy of intimacy, Kali (Christina Bennett Lind) and Todd (Richard Saudek) wage a dangerous battle of wits and words and take no hostages in the revival of Bryony Lavery’s “Stockholm” the One Year Lease Theatre Company production currently running at 59E59 Theater B.

There is little healthy fabric remaining in the marriage of Kali and Todd. Honesty has been absent since their first meeting at a restaurant opening when it took three rounds of falsehood to share their real names. In fact, there is little of truth in their relationship. The line between reality and fantasy, between truth and fiction, blurs scene by scene in Mr. Lavery’s engaging and challenging script. The fragility in their marriage and the deep co-dependence is belied in the recurring chorus of “Where are you? What are you doing?” Kali’s mistrust is so pervasive she wishes for “something so powerful it can look into someone’s brain and see what they are thinking…to check absolutely that someone means what he says….”

Kali knows she and Todd need help in order to escape the downward spiral of destructive behavior in their marriage and she knows the future will only hold even more horrific events. However, she and Todd are trapped in a co-dependent cycle of epic proportions. Their passive-aggressive exchanges only serve to intensify their abusive behavior and her level of mistrust escalates the level of disgust and rancor they feel for each other. After accusing her of what the couple has come to call retro-jealousy, Kali confronts Todd near the end of the play with, “Oh this isn’t retro-jealousy. This is contempt this is disgust this is about fundamental /unchangeable character you slept with her but it was just casual?”

Christina Bennett Lind and Richard Saudek completely understand the disturbed psyches of their characters and deliver exacting and chilling portraits of a couple in a myriad troubles, a veritable Pandora’s Box of psychic pain and emotional and physical abuse. These brave actors, under Natalie Lomonte’s movement direction, dodge sharp edges of set (and psyche) and portray Kali and Todd’s physical fights with a thrilling and often disturbing exactitude.

James Dardenne’s claustrophobic set successfully counterpoints the rough corners of the minds of this troubled couple and serves as a trope for the multilayered domain of the human psyche: although the superego is in short supply, the id and the ego loom large across Dardenne’s stark gray set illumined by the shafts of light (glimmers of hopefulness beyond the destructive behavior) provided by Mike Riggs’ splendid lighting.

The title of the play alludes not only to the destination of Kali and Todd’s upcoming vacation, it also alludes to a second definition of ‘Stockholm:’ “the psychological tendency of a hostage to bond with, identify with, or sympathize with his or her captor.” This couple is held hostage to a repetitive cycle of abuse and scorn which will only result in a future of even more horrific torture not only of each other but perhaps of their offspring. The audience will need to ask theatre staff for seatbelts to survive the rockiness and turbulence in the final “dark and dingy cellar” scene.
In the end, however, the scope of Mr. Lavery’s shocking play transcends Kali and Todd’s renovated apartment: “Stockholm” is ultimately a trope for the pervasive abusiveness and destruction unleashed daily in homes, schools (bullying), institutions, and nation-states across the globe. One patron sitting behind me muttered several times during the performance, “depressing.” It would appear a better description would be “real.” Such reality can either be viewed as depressing or a lifeline depending on one’s point of view. See “Stockholm” and decide for yourself. It is worth the visit.