Numbness and rebirth in 'Captivity' Theater: Playwright Nicky Silver's bizarre and emotionally bereft characters in the dark comedy 'Raised in Captivity' manage to be also surprisingly sympathetic.


"Raised in Captivity," like "Pterodactyls," the previous Nicky Silver play produced by AXIS Theatre, sounds as if it's about animals. But it's not.

Then again, the characters in this latest AXIS production aren't completely human, either. Most of them suffer from a disturbing lack of emotions.

There's Sebastian (Larry Malkus), who hasn't felt anything since his lover died of AIDS 11 years ago; Dylan (Jim Markiewicz), Sebastian's pen-pal, a convicted killer who didn't feel a thing when he committed murder; and Hillary (Bethany Brown), Sebastian's therapist, whose life is so empty she treats her patients like family, and when that doesn't work, resorts to self-mutilation.

These may not be happy, well-adjusted folks, but they're definitely interesting and wacky. Even Sebastian's seemingly normal twin sister, Bernadette (Darlene Deardorff), and brother-in-law, Kip (Stephen Antonsen), have gaping voids in their lives.

"I never told her I loved her," Deardorff's hyper-hysterical Bernadette laments after her mother's funeral. "Yes, you did. I heard you," Kip reassures her. "But I never meant it!" Bernadette wails.

This brand of dark, offbeat humor is pure Silver, and director Brian Klaas makes it gleam, although his cast fares best in the quieter scenes, when their neuroses seem most frighteningly real.

"Raised in Captivity" isn't just about emotional numbness. It's also about rebirth, and there's a note of hope at the end when the characters rearrange their relationships. AXIS has built something of a specialty out of this type of creepy-but-loopy comedy, and it's indicative of the production's effectiveness that, bizarre as the characters may seem, they also are surprisingly -- and unsettlingly -- sympathetic.

Show times at AXIS, 3600 Clipper Mill Road, are 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with matinees at 2 p.m. May 24 and May 31, through May 31. Tickets are $10 and $14. Call 410-243-5327.

'Drood' poll results

"The Mystery of Edwin Drood" wraps up its run at Theatre Hopkins on Sunday. So we thought we'd see how the voting has gone in this audience-participation musical, in which ( theatergoers decide several matters left unanswered in Dickens' unfinished novel.

Here are some of the results, tabulated by director Todd Pearthree: The Reverend (Jim Hart) has been chosen as the murderer four times, tying with sweet Rosa Bud (Jane E. Brown). Princess Puffer (Joyce Ohl), proprietress of an opium den, was named the murderer only once, but she's a popular lover, having been paired with Durdles (David Wills), the stone mason, five times, with the Deputy (Jason Ayestras) twice and with the Reverend once.

And Kenneth J. Ewing might consider a career in law enforcement. His character, Bazzard, has won the vote as the detective at every performance.

Pearthree also reports that the parents of Rupert Holmes, the show's creator, took in Theatre Hopkins' production on April 24. The couple, residents of New York state, told Pearthree they've attended 200 performances.

Men behind 'Mice'

In other community theater news, the Spotlighters' production of "Of Mice and Men" marks the 30th anniversary of the theater's first staging of this John Steinbeck classic.

Two people involved in that 1968 production went on to establish successful careers. Steve Yeager, the director, is the local filmmaker whose John Waters documentary, "Divine Trash," won the Filmmakers Trophy for best documentary at this year's Sundance Film Festival. (The movie premiered at the Senator Theatre last week.) "Of Mice and Men" was also the acting debut of Howard E. Rollins Jr., who played Crooks, the stableman. Rollins, who died in 1996, starred in the movie "Ragtime" and the TV series "In the Heat of the Night."

The Spotlighters' current production is directed by Sharon Weaver and continues through May 31. Call 410-752-1225.

Tonys omit Mamet

The Tony Award nominations have claimed their first casualty. David Mamet's "The Old Neighborhood," which failed to receive a single nomination, closed Saturday. A trio of one-act plays about a recently divorced man, the drama opened on Nov. 19, 1997, and played 197 performances at Broadway's Booth Theatre.

Learn to write, perform

The Performance Workshop Theatre Company will hold a playwriting and performance workshop for teen-agers beginning Saturday and continuing through June 27. The workshop, which will meet from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays, is limited to 10 participants. Classes will be taught by company member Allan Dale III in the company's theater, 28 E. Ostend St. The cost is $150. Call 410-659-7830.

Pub Date: 5/11/98

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