B y Ed Kliszus
Entering the black box theater space I caught the end of a recording of a time-setting performance by famed rock band Led Zeppelin. This preceded a recording of the hypnotic song Riders on the Storm, performed by Jim Morrison and The Doors.
The scene opens to an empty house sparsely furnished with cardboard boxes and devoid of personal items like photographs. We’re in southwest Florida on the gulf coast. From time to time we can hear the sounds of waves and seabirds.
Katherine is sleeping on a couch and arises wearily to look into the backyard. From the backyard, we hear voices followed by a gunshot. Confused and exhausted, Katherine lies back down and falls asleep.
Robert (Ryan Wesen) enters the room he shares with Katherine and nervously handles a pistol. This is an intense scene with Robert, a scruffy, mercurial character. One wonders if he’s contemplating suicide or is bolstering his courage to use the gun on someone.
After he speaks to Katherine for a bit, we are led to believe that he’s going on a fishing trip with his peers.
While Robert and Katherine seem amorous, she’s a bit confused and he’s disingenuous. They speak about the recent moon landing of 1969 and he mentions his intention to go fishing for a few days. Katherine thinks she had a nightmare or just experienced a quick-moving weather event. After Robert exits, we hear a power boat leaving along with waves lapping gently and sea birds.
The local Sheriff Ed (Ryan Clardy) and Deputy Sheriff Jim (Nick Walther) appear. They’re looking for “him” but don’t mention a name. They discover Katherine sleeping alone and decide to interview her. She speaks about seeing spacemen before the sheriffs leave and by chance, two space astronauts from NASA appear (also Ryan Clardy and Nick Walther). Were the NASA men looking for the men Katherine saw in space suits? Their behavior and affectations, while polite and non-threatening, are odd and consistent with what appears to be a dreamscape, nightmare sequence, or experience in another dimension.
Katherine is a 23-year-old innocent who married Robert, and while the sheriffs are convinced that Katherine knows about the man they seek, she’s too perplexed to provide useful information.
Throughout the scenes, characters sometimes speak while everyone else freezes, adding to the cinematic, supernatural, or mystery of the story. Katherine frequently describes the space men she sees daily and Robert returns and hides in the closet. It’s become apparent that Robert would harm Katherine if he could, but with the sheriffs nearby he fails.
Mother (Donna Wandrey as Katherine’s mother) appears while the NASA men and Robert are present and starts an absurd word association game followed by a game of musical chairs. The NASA men become amusingly aggressive toward Robert who is meandering the room in an attempt to choke Katherine. Mother clearly dislikes Robert.
This production is a psychological thriller where complex characters are sustained in an ever-changing dreamscape. It’s akin to being trapped in a Salvador Dali painting or episode of The Outer Limits or Twilight Zone. One wonders whose dream is driving the narrative. It might be described as a dark Alice in Wonderland with ever confusing clues and events that are seemingly disconnected. We discover that indeed a murder had occurred and that the dreamscape is fueled by a witness’s trauma. Robert is eventually found out and shot by one of the sheriffs as he attempts to choke who witnessed the murder. This is a dark comedy that explores the mind of a traumatized witness to a crime. It’s intriguing and imaginative.
Fastened to the Moon
By Linda Kampley
Directed by Kathleen Swan
Pëtra Dennison as Katherine
Ryan Clardy as Sheriff Ed/Astronaut #1
Nick Walther as Deputy Sheriff Jim/Astronaut #2
Donna Wandrey as Mother
Ryan Wesen as Robert
Chain Theatre Mainstage
312 W. 36 St. New York NY