Stage Review: "Fallen Saints: Dark"

The lazy way to describe the new effort from FON Productions is "Urban Death with Dialogue and Narration: the description is not really accurate, but it conveys a general idea of Fallen Saints: Dark, which uses a series of blackouts, tableau, and vignettes to portray the presence of Darkness in the life of one Everywoman, from cradle to grave. Performed on a mostly empty stage, the play relies on performances and sound design to fill the space, enhanced with an occasional dose of literal darkness, allowing the audience's collective imagination to conjure all manner of unseen terrors.

With Darkness personified (Gloria Galvan) acting as our narrator, the play initially seems to be headed in a mythological direction (the opening monologue is vaguely reminiscent of Ridley Scott's Legend, which featured Tim Curry as Darkness); however, it soon becomes apparent that the focus is on the darkness of the human soul, which plays out in a series of sinister scenes: a torturous visit to a dentist, a stranger talking a child into letting him inside her house, a literal whispering campaign that leads a high school girl to attempt suicide, etc. With this emphasis on the unsavory aspects of real life and on the existential dread of life's inexorable march toward death, Fallen Saints: Dark might be better titled "Despair."

The dialogue and narration are a double-edged sword. On one hand, they unite the separate scenes into an overall narrative, adding a level of pathos to what might have seemed like a Theatre of Cruelty assault on the audience. On the other hand, Darkness sometimes says too much, expounding upon the meaning of the action instead of allowing viewers to draw their own conclusions. In particular, the story ends on a sad but poignant note, followed by the off-screen cry of a newborn babe, clearly indicating that the cycle of life, death, and despair will continue - and then Darkness speaks up to explain what we have already ascertained on our own.

Staging makes clever use of the limited space, with the actors sometimes making an almost intimate connection with the audience. The various music cues and textures add layers of counterpoint and unease (marred somewhat by a noisy overhead fan). Our favorite bit was an early blackout with invisible characters making their presence felt (figuratively if not literally) while our skin crawled.

Fallen Saints: Darkness does not strive to maintain that level of shuddery horror, opting instead for a creepy sort of revulsion in the face of human malice. Ultimately, the play is less scary than depressing - you're more likely to shed a tear than emit a scream.

Fallen Saints: Dark continues at the The Belfry Stage (upstairs) in the Crown Theatre Complex on August 17-18, 24-25, with performances at 8:30pm, 9:30pm & 10:30pm. The address is 11031 Camarillo Street, North Hollywood, CA 91602. Get more information here.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.