By Toby Zinman
For the Inquirer
Forget Kate and Petruchio. Forget George and Martha. If you want really ferocious marital torment, watch Richard and Corinne quietly, icily go at it in Martin Crimp’s The Country, which opened Wednesday night in Tiny Dynamite’s elegant production at the Walnut Studio 5.
“That’s not what this is about.”
“Then what is it about?”
Crimp’s play is a study in ambiguity: elusive, elliptical, mysterious, The Country keeps us trying to figure out what is happening or what has happened. Some of what we know is that Richard (Carl Granieri) and Corinne (Emma Gibson) have moved, with their two children, to the country; their house, what we see of it—a wooden table and chairs, a breakfront—seems to be located inside a cave (an unsettling visual effect created by Zachery Limbert).
Richard is a physician, and his partner, Maurice, a doctor we know only from phone calls, has lied about some medical event—perhaps a patient’s death--for which Richard seems to have been to blame. Maurice’s interest in Corinne is problematic.
But nevermind that. There is a young woman, Rebecca (Laura Michelle Edoff) who is Richard’s lover, who has attempted to leave him by moving from the city to the country, and the family’s move has been his attempt to follow her.(“Her body became the city; he could unfold her like a map.”) One night he brings her, unconscious, into the house and puts her to bed. Confrontations ensue. Although the scenes seem to be sequential, things happen, or are implied to have happened, but which we don’t see or haven’t seen.
David O’Connor’s fine direction creates a sense of urgent foreboding, and watching these skillful actors is unnerving and disquieting. Carl Granieri has one of those dimples that makes it impossible to read what his face is saying, while Emma Gibson is both nervewrackingly serene and unglued. As Rebecca, Laura Michelle Edoff creates an utterly postmodern personality—vicious and needy, intellectual and mocking.
Virgil, the Latin poet, is invoked several times, as though to comment on the deterioration of the pastoral tradition, a vulgar lament for the land, the countryside, laking the sheep and shepherds.
Deeply in Pinter’s debt, Crimp uses language and silence like a surgeon, although it is hard to tell whether the patient has been saved or murdered by his operation; as one character says, “There is a limit to what the two of us can say in words.”
Tiny Dynamite Productions at Walnut Street Theatre Studio 5, 9th & Walnut Sts. Through July 1. Tickets $15-20. Information: www.tinydynamite.org or 800-838-3006.