Performance Review: Anthony Nielson's 'Normal' by the Molotov Theatre Company


denis sgouros

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I wonder what went through the ticket master’s head as he looked me in the eyes and handed me tickets to Normal with a smile and a nod. Was he looking forward to seeing me stumble out at the end of the 70 minute 1-act play? Disheveled and questioning all I had ever known?

I’ll never know for certain. At the end, I was too busy lunging for the restroom to pay the ticket master any heed. You see, the volume of liquid courage I had previously soaked up that night underwent a cruel transmutation, as the play went on, into liquid hell-terror screaming for release.

Set upon a small stage with sparse props the play set is seemingly as unassuming as a small beady eyed spider. However, this spider has bite that betrays its size and its venom is potent story telling.

The story takes place in 1930s Dusseldorf. Peter Kurten, the Dusseldorf ripper, has been caught and must now stand trial for his crimes. Enter Dr. Justus Wehner, defense attorney for Peter Kurten, this man seeks only to prove that Kurten, despite being a monster, cannot be held accountable for his crimes pleading insanity. Kurten asks of the jury and audience alike to consider: “Do we punish murder with murder? Do we [as a society] bear monsters or do we create them?”

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Wehner may aim to stay Kurten’s execution but the Dusseldorf ripper has other plans for this lawyer…In a thrust of irony it becomes apparent that the Dusseldorf ripper and his wife read the left handed lawyer as easily as the yellow legal notepad he jots his case notes upon.

When Kurten speaks to Wehner it is like a lion stalking his prey. When Kurten stands the metaphorical corpse of all victims lie in his shadow, blanketed in white and wearing an eerie porcelain mask.

At times goofy and cartoon like, while at others terrifying and violent, what is consistent throughout this production is the terror.

I’ve never had a date clutch my arm in fright before. This happened when I saw this play, and trust me, it was a perfectly Normal reaction.

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Showtimes are Thursday-Sunday at 7:30PM, from now until March 30th at the DCAC in Adams Morgan
Tickets are pay what you can on Thursday and $25 Friday-Sunday
Use code: fantom10 for $10 off admission thanks to Fantom Comics in Union Station!

If you’re interested in further works by Molotov Theatre Company, check out their website for other upcoming events.