Vol. 17, No. 15 – April 17 – April 30, 2024 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

“Deer” Delves Deep in Ojai

Prepare to be amazed, analyzed and shocked at the current offering of the Ojai Art Center Theater. Deer, by Aaron Mark, directed by David Henderson is billed as “A bloody comedy where love and hate collide.” It is a journey many will identify with, shed tears over, laugh about, cheer on and be repelled by all at once. It is quite a full evening and well worth it. This one pulls out all the stops and then some.

The play opens with a couple who have been married a long time out on a journey to their cabin in the mountains for a week of respite and rediscovery. Their daughter has recently moved along with her life, leaving them alone. What should be a relaxing week away at their hideaway in the Poconos quickly becomes the stuff of nightmares.

The drive to the cabin is filled with a steady stream of chatter from husband Ken (Taylor Kasch) which is received by resolute and angry blank stares by wife Cynthia (Cynthia Killion). They are each coping with the grief of an empty house and facing a future of potentially meaningless existence.

In the dark of night on the lonely country road, driver Cyn hits a deer. Convinced that the poor (clearly dead) animal can be revived, she insists on taking it to the cabin to nurse it back to health. Ken knows this is a pipe dream but is unable to sway Cyn in her desire to nurture something.

What follows is emotional combat at its best that highlights the mostly unstated, repressed underlying resentments and desires of the couple. It sounds devastating, but in the hands of these two highly skilled actors, it is a seething black comedy that will captivate you.

The story line has some twists and turns that may catch you off guard. Just when you think one thing may happen, there is an abrupt veer you did not see coming. Therein lies part of the fun. Just sit back and watch the action unfold.

The script is raw (definitely not recommended for children) which allows true feelings to come to the surface. It is quite a ride. The deer becomes an integral third-party player in this battle, prodding the couple to cope with down deep issues that come bubbling to the surface like hot lava. The deer (lovingly called Doe-Doe) even gets biographical credit as a cast member, as well she should.

John Mirk’s set design of the cabin interior is beautiful and functional. My mind could not help but connect symbolisms in the A-frame interior and the pointedness of the characters’ conflicts.

Bravo to the OACT for producing this brave work. Bravo to director David Henderson. Bravo to Cynthia Killion and Taylor Kasch who each gave a performance to be remembered.

There is only one more weekend to catch this extraordinary production. Make a reservation now for this Friday, Saturday or Sunday. www.ojaiact.org/ 805-640-8797.


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