“Mercury” is a Twisted Look into Revenge, and We Can’t Look Away

Review by Liz Eichler of “Mercury”: Know Theatre

Steve Yockey’s plays are kaleidoscopic – a slight turn, an imperceptible twist makes all the difference. He takes simple concepts and twists them with love and magic, so we see them anew. In Know Theatre’s production of “Mercury” the stars align, making “Mercury” a must-see this spring.

“Mercury” is a dark comedy about some ordinary yet nasty people, seeking revenge for the wrongs they’ve brought upon themselves. They keep looking to go backward in time, to be in retrograde. Know Theatre’s production has gathered a strong ensemble of actors who get the most out of a simple move, an eyebrow lift, a look, to delve deeper into these beings. Director, Scenic and Lighting Designer Andrew J Hungerford, again provides the perfect backdrop in set, lighting and projections for these powerful emotions, and guides them on their journey through the deliciously dark script. The turntable stage smoothly transitions from one suburban kitchenette, to a curiosity shop, to the living room of a duplex. 

We first meet Pamela (Robyn Novak) and Heather (Elizabeth Chinn Molloy), two frustrated housewives who live next door to each other, who’ve been in the process of redefining their relationship. Molloy is a great foil and has one of the creepiest scenes where her sweetness is transformed into something disturbing. Novak owns the stage, deftly knowing when to have the mask of sarcasm, when to show the vulnerability and hurt.

We also meet the saccharin and nosy Olive (the amazing Eileen Ernst) and discover her unrequited love for neighbor Nick (James Creque) who’s partner Brian (Andrew Ian Adams) is petulant and missing his old life in the city, which didn’t include bears.

Finally, there’s Sam (Patrick Earl Phillips) and Alicia (Tess Talbot), who’ve been dating for, like, over a hundred years, and still no ring.  Their complicated relationship makes them see red, however, their arguments are juxtaposed with hilarious work-a-day conversations.  Very clever writing.  Sam’s unusual work uniform shows off Phillips’ physique, (kudos to costumer Noelle Wedig-Johnston). Talbot shows her range from a sweet shop girl to someone who can stare down the devil. 

Each person has anger issues. Some direct that anger to a significant other, others focus on their neighbor.  Each has made sacrifices; none have gotten what they think they deserve. Perhaps each is “designed so you can’t touch them,” as Pamela describes her cacti. Perhaps they feel “when someone hurts you, you have to put that hurt somewhere else,” but that hurt still darkens the soul, and can’t be hidden by a sunny disposition. 

The women in this show are especially strong; the play demands it and the actors deliver. Ernst has become one of the area’s strongest physical comics who really knows how long to stretch her silence, when to let her limbs run amok, and when to show she is in control. Novak commands the stage in her debut. Talbot is an amazing chameleon. Molloy was so interesting in a non-speaking role in “SuperTrue”, it’s a joy to hear her speak. Under the guidance of AJH, the ladies and the men capture Yockey’sdark magic.  “These are the monsters around us and inside of us…in difficult truths…in times of change,” from AJH’s notes of the season.

This is the perfect R-rated theatre date.  Funny, scary, interesting, unusual, bloody, and really really good. â€œMercury” plays through May 11, the final performance in their 21st season “Fear Itself.” Get tickets at 513-300-KNOW or knowtheatre.com.