Off-Broadway Theater Review: RADIANT VERMIN (59E59 Theaters)

by Dmitry Zvonkov on June 13, 2016

in Theater-New York

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RADIANT THEATER

In Philip Ridley’s brilliant black satire Radiant Vermin, a seemingly nice, average twenty-something couple with an infant, tells us of the horrible things they did to get their dream home, confident that once we’ve heard the whole story we’ll “understand,” as everything they did, they did “for baby.”

Scarlett Alice Johnson, Debra Baker, and Sean Michael Verey in RADIANT VERMIN, written by Philip Ridley and directed by David Mercatali, at Brits Off Broadway at 59E59 Theaters - photo by Carol Rosegg

Jill (Scarlett Alice Johnson) and Ollie (Sean Michael Verey) are living in a mouse-infested flat in a crime-ridden neighborhood when they receive a letter from a Miss Dee (Debra Baker), who offers to give them a house for free. The catch is that the dwelling is run-down, and it will be up to the couple to fix it. Jill and Ollie haven’t the money for renovation. But a fortuitous tragedy reveals that there is a magical way to make their home beautiful, provided they have the stomach for it.

Scarlett Alice Johnson and Sean Michael Verey in RADIANT VERMIN, written by Philip Ridley and directed by David Mercatali, at Brits Off Broadway. Photo by Carol Rosegg

On William Reynolds’ bare white set, the outstanding cast delivers exhilarating performances under David Mercatali’s brisk direction. Ms. Johnson and Mr. Verey share a wonderful chemistry as the two protagonists who alternate between acting out and narrating their story, miming action and portraying different characters when called for. Mr. Mercatali helps the duo achieve a satisfying balance between their use of theatrical grammar and the fact that the storytellers, Jill and Ollie, are not themselves performers. The result is a slightly less “actorly” but more intimate and inclusive telling. And Ms. Baker’s transformation from enigmatic realtor to homeless woman is startling.

Scarlett Alice Johnson, Debra Baker, and Sean Michael Verey in RADIANT VERMIN, written by Philip Ridley and directed by David Mercatali, at Brits Off Broadway. Photo by Carol Rosegg

After the first pernicious miracle happens in this critique of the upwardly mobiles’ mentality in a time of gentrification, the young couple go for a night drive. They stop at a lookout which should, by all rights, open onto a vista of urban sprawl. Instead it reveals what is essentially the expanse of Hell. Gazing down at it, Jill admits, “I never thought something like this could be beautiful.” “But it is,” agrees Ollie. The two are on their way to where they want to be. And we find ourselves asking, How many pernicious miracles did it take for us to get where we are?

Scarlett Alice Johnson and Sean Michael Verey in RADIANT VERMIN, written by Philip Ridley and directed by David Mercatali, at Brits Off Broadway at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Roseggphotos by Carol Rosegg

Radiant Vermin
Supporting Wall, Metal Rabbit Productions,
and Soho Theatre
part of Brits Off Broadway
59E59 Theaters
Tues-Thurs at 7:15; Fri at 8:15;
Sat at 2:15 & 8:15; Sun at 3:15
ends July 3, 2016
for tickets, call 212.279.4200 or visit 59e59

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