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Do you know what holds all the planets together? -- Megan Feather

Longacre Lea is offering a double billing of oddity and comedy with it's current show that is comprised of Mac Wellman's Energumen and Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound (review). Just to be completely clear, Longacre Lea is a theatre company dedicated to "staging work by playwrights whose voices are literary, witty and light on the exposition and explanation." Mac Wellman's Energumen certainly falls into this category of play writing.

Energumen is about a dynamic duo of cult deprogrammers -- San Nutley and Deborah Martin -- who are working to release Megan Feather, an influential businessman's daughter, from The Seat of Bliss, a cult operating here in our nation's capital. (FYI, Sam and Deborah could also possibly be demonic possession exorcists.)

The Bliss cult is run by a man known as The Master of Many Perfections who demands his disciples bathe and pamper him and hop about like little bunnies. Well, maybe he's a man because he could potentially be a devil or even a robot, it's hard to tell. And maybe it's an influential businessman's daughter. And maybe it's a cult. . .no, I am almost certain it's a cult!

Toss into the mix a bunch of donation collecting Santas -- one of whom may be the real St. Nick -- and then stir in a crooked congressman and a famed French chef and you have more confusion. X-Files-like, knead in some government conspiracy and you have an ongoing mind game.

I am almost certain the congressman is not a congressman, unless of course he is a congressman masquerading as a French chef. But no, that wouldn't work because the French chef was not a French chef, but an acting instructor pretending to be a French chef. In which case the congressman probably does not know how to make a good croissant...

I think you are getting the picture. Well, maybe you aren't because the picture is pretty fuzzy even to me, and I took notes!

All of that said, the show itself is an interesting one-act if you simply sit back and enjoy the proceedings without trying to figure out what exactly is occurring. In a way -- like faith -- you must simply allow your intuitive self to decipher the various clues being offered to you without allowing your rational brain to step in and demand concrete "facts." This is not a show that is going to spoon feed you with a coherent plot line. It's more like life can so often be, where you sit back, scratch your head and say "What just happened here? I'm not exactly sure, but its been interesting."

Hugh T. Owen does a great job as the debonair yet ultimately confused Sam Nutley. Jeanne Dillon is quite good as Sam's exasperated associate Deborah Martin. Jonathan Church is convincing as Mr. Feather, Megan's father and then later as an angry government agent who has been duped by the scheming masterminds. Melissa-Leigh Douglass provides an angry Megan Feather who seems to have a better grasp of what is actually happening than Sam or Deborah. Michael Glenn is "The Professional Frenchman" who is neither French nor politically inclined. Carlos Bustamante is wonderful as the snide and overly confident Master of Many Perfections, whom it turns out is far from perfect.

Marybeth Fritzky is the wide-eyed acolyte so happy to hop behind her master. Jason Stiles is a Santa who doesn't take kindly to people shrugging off the Christmas spirit. And Abby Wood is the ever present watchful eye of...? We're never quite sure, but she always seems to be around.

Director Kathleen Akerley has sprinkled this Christmas-in-August production with a variety of site gags, which by the way includes the program. For example, when Jacques Petit the French chef who isn't really French comes on stage, the music of Jacques Brel plays. Brel was a musician and national hero of France who was actually from Belgium. This, like many aspects of the show, is a clue that nothing in this production is as it seems or should be taken for face value. Again, much like life.

To enjoy the show and grasp the most you can from the production, I highly recommend arriving early enough to go to the last page in the program and read the scene changes for Energumen. This will help you understand the constant set changes and explain why those crew members are walking back and forth, carrying a set piece, behind the cast.

The show is interesting, entertaining, funny at points and not for everyone. However, it is followed by The Real Inspector Hound which more than makes up for Energumen's vexing hard to grasp qualities.

by Mac Wellman
Directed by Kathleen Akerley
with Abby Wood, Jeanne Dillon, Jason Stiles, Hugh T. Owen, Jonathon Church, Melissa-Leigh Douglass, Michael Glenn, Marybeth Fritzky, Carlos Bustamante
Set Design: Matthew Soule
Costume Design: Gail Stewart Beach
Lighting Design: Andrew Griffin
Sound Design: Kathleen Akerley and Michael Dove
Properties: Kathleen Akerley and Katie Clemmons
Running Time: 2 hour and 20 minutes with one intermission
A production of Longacre Lea
at Callan Theatre, Catholic University Drama Complex, 3801 Harewood Road, NE, Washington DC
Telephone: 202-460-2188 or
WED - SAT @7:30, SUN @2; $12-$18
Opening 08/11/05, closing 09/04/05
Reviewed by Rich See based on 08/19/05 performance
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