Review: ‘Monster’ is masterful

An Orwellian-like future world where humanity has been called into question is the setting of “Monster in the Dark,” an invigorating, creative world premiere presented by the San Francisco-based foolsFURY Theater Company.

The show, written by Doug Dorst and directed by Ben Yalom, marks the first play to be conceived and produced by the 10-year-old troupe, which is known not only for experimentation, but for staging productions characterized by extensive physicaland highly choreographed movement.

“Monster in the Dark,” which moves this week to San Francisco’s CounterPULSE after a successful East Bay run at the Ashby Stage in Berkeley, swiftly displays those qualities.

Though a bit lengthy, clocking in at slightly more than two-and-a-half hours, “Monster in the Dark” remains fascinating throughout, telling the tale of life under a totalitarian government called The Structure.

But that’s not all: Fundamentalist religion rears its ugly head, as practiced by the Makersellers, while commerce, too, has run rampant, carried out by the Stuff-Thrusters.

The action kicks in as people living under these restrictions must come to terms with life and death in the face of an apocalyptic flood.

Despite the intense, if slightly familiar, themes, the show is anything but dreary, its characters filled with passion, fire, conviction — and confusion.

The actors clearly are having a great time in the ensemble piece in which they take on multiple roles.

Deborah Eliezer holds nothing back as a hopeful evangelist, while Blythe Foster writhes as Delia, a prostitute. Jessica Kitchens shows her frustration as Mina, a married woman having an affair with businessman Vic (played by Peter Ruocco), who also has the distinction of being selected by the Makersellers as a savior of sorts. Ryan Tasker is the bold Prisoner, who has questioned authority, as does Beth Wilmurt as Miss Huddleston, a teacher who has been reprimanded for veering from Structure-sanctioned “structiculum.”

The Structure’s jargon is often funny, particularly when spewed over a public address system, voiced by an appropriately robotic sounding female barking orders to the population.

It’s easy to see how the production began as a theater lab project with Berkeley’s Shotgun Players and, after years of collaboration evolved into this polished piece, filled with sound, movement, color, and yes, laughs.

Although “Monster in the Dark” admittedly doesn’t evoke much in the way of emotion or sentiment, it’s a an engaging ride into a place that, in many ways, is not too far from what we, as participants in contemporary culture, call home.

IF YOU GO

Monster in the Dark

Presented by: foolsFURY Theater Company

Where: CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 5 p.m. Sundays; closes March 23

Tickets: $12 to $30; Thursdays pay what you can

Contact: (800) 838-3006 or www.foolsfury.org

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