By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
The Danube is one of those rare theatrical experiences that carries a haunting afterglow. The Kitchen Dog cast is terrific, and all the technical aspects work to keep the focus on the words and ideas. It's the writing that makes this one memorable. This is a play that can do what it does only within the confines of a live theater. Unlike so many new plays that really are thinly disguised movie or sitcom scripts, The Danube is that purely theatrical thing whose magic would be lost in any other medium.
During his recent visit to Southern Methodist University, playwright Edward Albee said that he was "convinced that all art in the most indirect fashion is a political statement. But a political play doesn't have to be specifically political.'' The themes, political and otherwise, in The Danubeare open to many interpretations. The art of the play is how Fornes avoids painting her messages on any billboards. On one level, the play could be a cautionary eco-fable. On another it's a statement about the devastating effect of totalitarian government on the human spirit. Or perhaps it's a story of love poisoned by circumstances.
Just about the time we think we've figured it out, though, the play explodes from any logical, linear format and, like the works of Samuel Beckett, Tom Stoppard and Albee, heads into the territory of the absurd and surreal. By the end of The Danube, there are hand puppets and clouds of nuclear ash floating through the air. Sirens wail in the distance. There's a glimpse of an American president giving a hearty thumbs-up. Nothing is what it seems, but it all makes for a provocative and memorable 75 minutes of theater.