Michael Seebold’s “Etched Glass Decanter” evokes Edgar Allan Poe or the darker works of Neil Gaiman. The 70-minute play takes place in an obscure universe where dream logic prevails and where ethereal figures point the way for the protagonists—a way that is, in the end, circular. It is a dialogue-rich piece that is the essence of the best short of shows that appear at Capital Fringe.
It is a dialogue-rich piece that is the essence of the best short of shows that appear at Capital Fringe.
The production from Evening Crane Theatre, which has run at a range of Fringe festivals both in the U.S. and abroad, is a staging of a radio play available on the company’s website. As such, much of Seebold’s evocative script is expository. Because his is such a poetic voice, this generally works well.
Seebold is an evocative and intelligent writer, and he has strong leads in Reid Watson and Leah Schwartz. They are able to deliver his poetic lines with the right mix of detachment and commitment, deepening the strange mood of the world Seebold is building. Tyler Dubuc’s lighting is a character in itself, taking advantage of the confines of a Fringe performing space to cast mood-shifting hues behind the actors and to paint scenes where their larger-than-life shadows do the acting.
At times, the expository tone does become frustrating. Schwartz is particularly adept at describing movements and actions that cannot be seen, but the radio style of the script has the actors also stating out loud the things they can be seen doing. This takes the viewer out of the world, not deeper in to it.
Watson grips the audience’s attention from the start, as the angst-ridden Astronomer coping with the possible presence of a ghost in his solitary working space. Watson is alone on stage—responding to off-stage sounds and voices—for nearly the first 10 minutes of the show, and it’s a feat to hold attention for that long. He does so with seeming ease, a credit to his comfort with both his craft and with Seebold’s script.
Shannon McDavid appears as the ghostly Izhabel, a deliverer of transport between realms who is vague on who, where, or when she is. Lane M. Jackson plays the puzzled and puzzling Blind Dutch Master, an absentminded bloke who has been sketching a bit of seashore for either days or eons.
Seebold, the founder of Evening Crane and the director of the production, is a visionary, and he has assembled an ideal team to realize his vision. If it remains a bit hazy to those introduced to it for the first time, that may just be the point.
Running time: 70 minutes.
“Etched Glass Decanter” ran through July 15-17, 2022 at Representation at 3270 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20007. To see the Capital Fringe performance schedule and purchase tickets ($15), go online. For more on the play and Evening Crane Theatre, visit the company’s website here.