At its best, acting is an exercise in artistic empathy in which one person inhabits the soul of another, and that's exactly what the two-person cast of Brutal Imagination achieves with breathtaking impact. In 1994, Susan Smith (Melissa Landy) notoriously drove her car into a lake, drowning her young boys in the back seat, and blamed it on a phantom black carjacker. In an inspired twist, Robert Wright portrays the mythical kidnapper and engages Smith in an elliptical dialogue on race, community, and forgiveness.
Far from a straightforward crime procedural, Cornelius Eady's script is layered with evocative abstract imagery, freely bending reality in the recounting of this infamous atrocity. An impressive set of fragmented dockwork and an original cinematic score by Igor Yachmenov make for an appropriate backdrop, and Austen Edwards' direction effectively emphaizes the piece's poetry as the performers breathe in unison or pace in parallel figure-eights, cradling teddy bears like babies.
There are many moments that sparkle with dramatic tension, as when Wright exhorts "Uncle Tom in heaven" to make sense of society's eager acceptance of imaginary African American assailants. Wright, who has the impassioned intensity of a young Terrence Howard, is so talented that he nearly overshadows his co-star, but Landy holds her own in the hysterics department when the walls of her deceipt finally crumble. If this represents the quality of artists currently coming out of UCF's drama program, I have firm faith in our theatrical future.
Project Spotlight (Orlando, FL)
Rating: G14 (adult language, adult themes)
Run Time: 50 minutes
Fri, May 17 2013, 5:30p.m. - 6:30p.m.
Tue, May 21 2013, 9:15p.m. - 10:15p.m.
Thu, May 23 2013, 7:45p.m. - 8:45p.m.
Sun, May 26 2013, 12:00p.m. - 1:00p.m.