by Beth Henley
directed by Robert Falls
@ The Geffen Playhouse
through March 25
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Beth Henley's latest one-act The Jacksonian is a no-holds-barred look at the decadent middle-class values of the residents of Jackson, Mississippi in 1964. Now in its world premiere at the Geffen Playhouse, the complicated nature of The Jacksonian may shock or jolt you, but its moody, high on intrigue structure will also keep you fixated from beginning to end.
We hear about a murder/robbery that occurred at a nearby gas station, which affects Fred, Eva and Rosy and then within the action of the play, there's a grizzly killing within the motel itself. With racism and the KKK looming in the background, the tone of the play is not unlike David Lynch's Blue Velvet or Twin Peaks, milder but consistently frenetic and piquing curiosity. Within Perch's sordid activities of at the motel, there's a sick sense of intriguing humor at play which also keeps the piece riveting, as well as his wife's supposed madness and her gullible reactions to his lurid behavior. No time for boredom, as Henley plays steadily with the characters, transforming them throughout, making us realize we really don't know who they are and what we are witnessing. It's all very surreal, not unlike a horrible nightmare.
Under Robert Falls even direction, the acting is stellar. Harris is a time bomb waiting to explode; Madigan's even-keeled madness, fascinating to behold; Pullman's pulled-in conman is engaging and deviously funny; Headley makes Eva a deliriously delicious slut; Rous's quiet and focused, almost comatose manner is chilling.
One thing about The Jacksonian is clear. You may not always understand what is happening when, but it will undoubtedly leave you thinking and talking days after you've seen it, and that's what good, cutting-edge theatre is all about.
4 out of 5 stars