john_j_enright (john_j_enright) wrote,

Anna in the Darkness

"Anna in the Darkness", by Jeremy Menekseoglu, has become a Halloween staple of the Chicago theater scene. But until last night, I hadn't seen it.  

It's a one-woman show, about a teacher whose house is surrounded by people who plan to kill her. But it's about more than that. Anna has a story to tell.

I had the idea, from the ads and the word-of-mouth, that it was extremely scary. Horror-film scary.  

So it was hard to get my wife to go see it. She likes her sleep. And she can't sleep after watching a horror film.

But last night, Halloween night, I prevailed. And was quite surprised. Certainly the play was very scary.  But it was inspiring too. Anna turns out to be a kind of tragic heroine. She doesn't think of herself that way. She thinks of herself as someone who can't help doing what she knows is right.

She doesn't think of herself as brave. But she can't help fighting against evil.

Anna was embodied by the always-compelling Anna Weiler, who slipped into the character as a hand into a glove, smoothly transitioning between abject vulnerability and driven righteousness.  

Weiler also, at times, in recounting the past, slipped into some other characters as well.  Each portrait was sharp and distinct.  It was quite startling to watch her flow from dedicated teacher to twisted Christian preacher.

This play got me thinking about horror stories. They're not all the same. Some of them are about a universe that is malevolent. Others are about a universe that contains some malevolent beings. The feeling is different. When Menekseoglu writes a horror-drama, it's the second variety, and the malevolent beings are always manifestations of humanity gone wrong.

You know it's true,
not everyone wants
the best for you.

In fact, some want the worst,
hoping to burst
your heart.

Throw back their taunts
and pursue
what you must.

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