Sunday, February 23, 2014

Orlando premiere of devious drama 'Terminus'

     ORLANDO — An emotionally gripping and spellbinding performance of Mark O’Rowe’s dark and disturbing play “Terminus,” is currently being presented by DiDonna Productions and the Empty Spaces Theatre Co(llaboration) at the Orlando Shakespeare Center.

     “The actors are involved and the audience is immersed in what they’re doing,” said Mary Beth Spurlock, the play’s director. “The audience is their set and the audience are their props.”

     Spurlock has been living and breathing this play for the last three years, after she first discovered and directed it at the University of South Florida in Tampa. When she finished at USF and moved back to Orlando, local director John DiDonna approached her about bringing this play to life once again.

     Taking place in the modern-day setting of Dublin, Ireland, the story and characters within its world paint far from a pretty picture with the lives they live and interactions they have with others. The primary characters that have seemingly no connection with each other, all experience a living hell at the same time, with their twisted journey eventually being interwoven. This creates an overall message that tragic events in our lives can catch us off-guard and destroy our sense of security.

     Playwright, Mark O’Rowe, has crafted a beautifully complex script that uses a flowing rhyme scheme throughout, broken up into nine alternating monologues. Words from one line to another play-off each other and create a feeling of fantasy that makes the dark subject material more mysterious. Even though the themes can be disturbing, they can also initially be sympathized with, due to their addressing of raw emotions such as depression, anger, and betrayal.

     This performance is also an unconventional take on the play, involving the movement of the actors and their enhanced interaction with theatergoers. Instead of the three actors standing and delivering their lines, they move around the theatre and audience and become physical at times to draw them in.

     Allowing this unique theatre-in-the-round performance style is the location, the small and personable Dr. Phillips Patrons’ Room, which is circular and capped with a tall domed roof. In addition, this location allows voices to bounce off the walls and fill the theatre, and low-placed lights strategically positioned along the perimeter by lighting director Hatem Habashi, allow for shadow play on the walls that make for a haunting effect.

     Stage presence is very important for the three actors in this production because of their need to hold the audience’s attention during each one of their monologues. All three of the performers brilliantly convey all the intense emotion and disturbing subject matter with a mastery of their complex lines of script and additional audience interactions.

     Sarah-lee Dobbs is commanding in her performance, from moments of quiet melancholy to outbursts of intense rage. She uses her singing experience to strengthen her sound, and presents a focused confidence built around her long acting career that originally started in London as a teenager.

     “I’ve done Shakespeare before, but this has to be the hardest thing that I’ve done, because of the lines,” said Dobbs when asked about the difficult script.

     Kelly Kilgore, who graduated from the University of Central Florida with her MFA in Acting, plays the other female character in “Terminus,” shows a wonderful range in her emotions and performance abilities. Those her character has been betrayed by the people she loves her whole life, she soon finds joy in the forum of a lover that will fight for her, despite the fact that he just so happens to be a demon soul working for Satan.

     “You don’t get to do such crazy stuff in a lot of plays that are produced these days,” said Kilgor. “The fact that we’re able to do this wild, exciting, scary, edgy play from Ireland here in Orlando is just awesome.”

     Tommy Liles portrays the third main character in this play and has the darkest role of them all. He sells his soul to the devil in order to sing like an angel, but soon finds that he can only sing when alone and can never share this ability with others. This drives him insane, and the lack of a soul makes him transform into a twisted serial killer.

     “The thing I really like about Empty Spaces is it’s not necessarily about reputation, but about performance,” said Liles. “I was astounded when I got this part.”

     Liles has only acted in high school and college before, making this is first professional acting performance. He masterfully steps up to the challenge and handles himself with a great confidence like any seasoned actor, despite the great venture this play presents with its complicated and lengthy dialog.

     “Terminus” doesn’t contain any singing or dancing, only the purest form of in-your-face drama. Come to this show with an open mind and a love of theater, and you will be transported to places you may find frightening but also are undeniably mesmerizing.

     Showtimes are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 8:30 p.m. at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, until Mar. 2. Ticket prices are $20 for general admission, and $15 for students and seniors.
Calling 407-328-9005 can make reservations for cash purchases at the door, and credit card reservation can be made at or by clicking this link.

By James Tutten

(Above photo by Les Jinques Photography and Ryan McKenzie for graphics)


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