Home » Uncategorized » Poltergeists, improvization fuel Improbable Theatre’s ’70 Hill Lane’

Poltergeists, improvization fuel Improbable Theatre’s ’70 Hill Lane’

Experimental theater gets a bad rap a lot of times.There is this stereotype of the boring, overly abstract performance. An actor outstretches his arms and declares, “Look at me! I am a tree!” Improbable Theatre’s production of “70 Hill Lane,” which opens at the Wexner Center tonight at 8 p.m., will shatter that stereotype. For once experimental theater has the potential to be something fun.Actors with the bravery to build a house with Scotch tape in front of an audience and not only keep them lively but achieve wild applause, there’s something here that needs to be investigated.Phelem McDermott is one of the masterminds behind this performance. “70 Hill Lane” is set in his boyhood home, where a troublesome poltergeist, “Polty,” causes trouble, but the story can go anywhere from there.The stage is quite bare, with large metal poles, with special effect of the poltergeist waiting to be set off.”70 Hill Lane” is impromptu with the actors making up lines and using props as they go along. The audience becomes involved, and there’s a lot of humor. That’s the way McDermott, and other co-founders, Lee Simpson and Julian Crouch, all from London, wanted it.Scotch tape becomes a puppet, then a character. Through the poltergeist, coat hangers and other inanimate objects come to life.From London, the play has traveled to Cairo, Belgium, San Diego and New York gathering rave reviews.”I suspect I have seen very few what you could call ‘geniuses.’ I also suspect McDermott might be one of them,” wrote Clive Barnes, theater critic for the New York Post.McDermott might seem unassuming, a typical theater guy, plain sweater, buzz cut, hair dyed blond. But he has so many things to say and so many ideas about theater that it’s difficult keep up with him.He’s facinated with the concept of “objects.” “But they really don’t have a life to them, you know. It’s the significance people give them,” McDermott said.There’s a little parody the show does sometimes. A Scotch tape puppet becomes McDermott’s grandma. “And people come up to me afterwards and say, ‘You know, that was so moving,'” he said.The poltergeist seems to have had such an effect on him. “It was so out of the ordinary,” he said.Earlier, in 1996, McDermott said, “I knew what had happened, it was my truth and it didn’t matter whether people believed me or not.””In telling the story of ‘Polty,’ I have discovered that there were other stories in that house that needed to be told. Maybe they will be different from night to night,” he said.Much of the look of the show comes from Crouch. Crouch did a great deal of work with puppets in London. “He’s not your typical theater guy,” McDermott said Wednesday. “He really thought of the performers when he designed the show.”McDermott wanted to do something new when he started Improbable Theatre.He complains about big theater productions trying to wow people with special effects. “A gigantic helicopter lands on the stage and the audience is just dazzled. However, with a simple puppet made of Scotch tape or a coat hanger, we’re really able to entertain,” he said.”I think theater should be about storytelling. It’s about getting the audience involved in what’s going on. It shouldn’t try to compete with film,” he said.Would he ever do a movie? “I’ve been interested in doing a film, but I think that I would always return to theater. It’s where I get my energy,” he said.He talked of the excitement of working with an audience, of drawing from their participation. Impromptu can always have its problems, but when it is right, it is very right, and it is always unique. “Every night is different,” he said.And what should people expect from the performance? “It’s funny. It’s simple,” he said, and then he grinned. “It’s a ghost story.”Improbable Theatre’s “70 Hill Lane” will play Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and on Sunday at 3 p.m. in Wexner Center’s performance space. Tickets are $14 for the general public, $12 for Wexner Center members.

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