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Terror Town - Laura

I attended Terror Town last night, a mash-up between Thorton Wilder's Our Town and the real-life history of Playas, New Mexico, a tiny town in the desert that was purchased by the Department of Homeland Security where the military stages terrorist attacks for military training purposes. The production was a work-in-progress presentation of material generated in a Creative Collaboration course led by Gulgun Kayim of Skewed Visions, a Minneapolis-based sight specific theatre company. Last night (one of three showings), twelve student actors, two installation artists and a sound designer guided an audience of about 65 through Norris Hall on the East Bank of campus, in a roving performance that touched on military training, waterboarding and other torture practices, and old-timey American family values.
II think the premise has a lot of promise (the history of Playas itself is fascinating. Just the idea that the government bought a town is kind of blowing my mind. I really want to do some more research on this concept.) I am definitely looking forward to a full-blown production of this, which Gulgun says will be premiering next year. And this permutation had some great moments - particularly strong was the scene where the state college professor and Mr. Webb the newspaper editor give a presentation on facts about Grovers' Corners. Four actors, in military outfits, played the professor. Mid-way through the scene, I began to hear the sound of running water (I was pressed up against the door, crouching to try to see the action). Then, a door opened to reveal the actor playing Webb, in fatigues and a blaze-orange vest, dripping wet. The actor (who I will admit is a friend of mine) just has amazing physicality - he is an extremely compelling performer to watch, and the moment when he is revealed, wet and alone in a tiny concrete room, was really powerful. The professors then dragged him to a chair, and under an intense lamp, he proceeded with Wilder's monologue about the cultural awareness of the citizens of the town. Really great stuff. The opening was pretty effective too. As the audience arrived, we were kept outside, asked to check in, and then shown an information video for new recruits. From then on, we were the recruits. After the video, we went back outside. From several blocks away, we could hear "left, left, left right left." The actors proceeded to march into Norris, led by the Stage Manager, reimagined as a drill sergeant.
The good moments were great, but not enough to completely carry the show. There was a weird split between "acting" and "not -acting," and I feel that they needed to push it in one direction or another. Regardless, it gave me a lot to think about.