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Into the depths of Theatre Too for Language of Angels

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Doing a play set in a cave is a redundant move at Theatre Too, which itself is a dark grotto some 30 steps below The Quadrangle. The play that opened last night at Theatre Too, Language of Angels by Naomi Iizuka, is about a group of hick kids in North Carolina who hang out in caves, drink beer and generally screw around. Their lives are changed when one of their own, a young girl named Celie (played by Jessica Renee Russell), is either lost or murdered in one of the caves.

For 90 minutes the Theatre Too cast, directed by Jeffrey Schmidt, deliver Iizuka's dreary dialogue in long vignettes in which the actors' faces are lit by tiny flashlights. To create a cave-like atmosphere, Schmidt, who also designed the show, has draped the walls in heavy clumps of gray fabric. Actors waft in and out of the fake rocks at various intervals and sometimes speak from behind them, as if lost in narrow passageways. (More about the play in next week's Stage column.)

The problem with making the 80-seat Theatre Too into a tight subterranean vault for a show like this is that Theatre Too already IS a tight subterranean vault. Windowless, with one exit door that's ON THE STAGE, it is a claustrophobia-inducing underground trap. You go to be entertained only to find yourself entombed in a clammy boxcar that smells like the bottom of a dirty clothes hamper. Real caves have better ambiance.

When they're doing a light musical comedy like I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change -- which Theatre Too will keep reprising every winter as long as they can squeeze a nickel out of it -- Theatre Too is almost bearable. At least you're laughing. With Language of Angels, you've got a depressing-as-hell play set inside a suffocating space. With no intermission. It's like watching that Ryan Reynolds horror flick, Buried, on a screen inside the coffin.

So be warned. If you have tickets for Language of Angels, pop a nerve pill beforehand and maybe take extra oxygen with you. You're not just going to the theater with this one; you're spelunking.

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