SALT LAKE CITY — The Place of No Darkness, produced by Dearly Beloved Theatre Company, is an intense performance for mature audiences about three guys discovering they are in hell and fighting to get out.
The stage was set with debris and random items such as crutches and a piano. There was a ripped up couch and several chairs scattered around, some of them topsy turvy. Yellow tape was stretched across the space, assisting the look of chaos. As the lights turned on, three gasping men emerged from behind the couch and piano, and one let out a blood-curdling scream. At first they had no speech and had to re-learn everything from baby to adult. The grunts and toddler-like discoveries at the beginning were somewhat endearing to me, as I have two young toddlers. My favorite part was their discovery of making different sounds by hitting items on walls, floor, chair, etc., and the excitement portrayed was genuine.
I thought all three actors, Christian Maestas, Ryan Rasmussen, and Torin Scoffield were equally good at performing their roles, with a similar weakness of lack of focus, which seemed more to be due to the chaotic natural of the show. Also, two of the actors had long hair that blocked much of their expression.
As the show went deeper into pain and struggle, the characters showed possession using various props, including a bowl and masks that created different reactions for each of the three characters. It was interesting to see how one would perform a traditional monologue during each demonstration, reminding me of famous playwrights like Shakespeare, while the other two would be struggling with the unseen force of evil.
At times the show was also confusing because reactions to items in the space were not always the same. The creepy acts they portrayed were received with immediate but not lasting consequences, like harming each other but being healed soon after, like they all had the powers of Wolverine from X-Men.
This performance was full of read and quoted parts of powerful texts from books and dictionaries scattered around the room, which were read periodically as if to teach a lesson, which confused me more than helped me get what story was being told. It ended with the hope of living without death, and being loved after you die, read from one of the many books, and perhaps it would have been a more satisfying finish if it hadn’t been somewhat dull.
Though the premise was very negative, there were multiple moments that lightened the mood such as when the three discovered the joys of a bouncy ball. I didn’t find myself really contemplating or thinking deeply about what was presented since the performance never moved me to that point. It was, however, interesting to watch.