There's something exotically sexy about a psychological thriller. The way the pieces unfold in unexpected and mind-boggling ways. The way the music and lighting work together, keeping us on edge and building the tension between the characters and the audience.
As the play or film moves forward, I love to gather those crumbs dropped by a cunning and masterful playwright or director, that let me naively believe I’ve pieced it together, that I’ve got it all figured out. Of course, "this is what’s happened," I whisper to my husband.
But in the best of the best, the ones I remember long after the curtain falls, the ones I long to see again and again, it’s in the final seconds that I discover I am wrong. Completely wrong. I had nothing figured out.
To me, that’s total brilliance.
And on Wednesday, I got a taste of such genius in Arun Lakra’s new play, “Sequence,” the third show in the Adirondack Theatre Festival’s summer season at the Charles R. Wood Theater in downtown Glens Falls.
“Sequence” directed by Marshall Pailet, (Nikola Tesla Drops the Beat, Loch Ness), closed on July 28 and I regret that, because as “Sequence” actor Margaret Reed predicted, I want to see it again. Actually, I need to see it again. I can’t stop thinking about the final 15 minutes.
In this rapid-fire drama, set in a genetics laboratory and an auditorium stage, the players masterfully spew mathematical equations, scientific hypotheses and the Fibonacci sequence of numbers that some believe rule the universe, in their quest to prove their theories of luck are right.
“Everything happens sequentially. Music, DNA. Every story ever told,” says Dr. Guzman, played by Margaret Reed, (FX’s, “The Americans”, NBC’s, “The Blacklist” and ABC’s, “Deception”). “There is an order to the universe. If chicken, then egg. And, even more importantly, the order implies causality. Egg creates chicken. Or chicken spawns egg.”
So what really came first, I wonder, when the blind Dr. Guzman asks the question.
With all paths leading back to the darkly sensuous Theo, charismatically played by Bob D’Haene (Off-Broadway: Baghdaddy),and his highly publicized two decades-long lucky streak, "Sequence" dares question if there is really any such thing as luck.
Oddly, though, after plunking $850 million on his next coin toss, Theo admits he's tired of winning.
"Nobody will let me stop. The casinos want me to keep winning. The believers bet with me, the skeptics bet against me," he says to biology student Cynthia, played by Turna Mete (BAM: The Parable Conference). "But everybody has their theory and now the entire planet bets on the coin flip."
With a stunningly stark and often ominous sound track by Brandon Reed, there is the drip, drip of water, no actually, it's a thud, thud, a heart beat, perhaps. The sounds, perfectly timed with dramatic lighting by Chelsie McPhilimy, signal impending doom.
Also part of this small, but powerful cast is a staggeringly unlucky man, Mr. Anderson, played by Doug Plaut (TV: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, “Daredevil”, “Vice Principals”)who believes his 150 consecutive wrong test answers are proof of a higher power.
In this world of DNA strands and big money, there are perhaps fatal consequences to everyone's decisions. And this mind-blowing, award-winning drama will leave audiences wondering whether luck is coincidence, divine intervention, or if its built into our DNA.
In a twist, Pailet has 16 audience members seated on the stage with the actors and it really works as the rest of the audience barely notices the dynamic between the actors and those watching, giving a fresh energy to the performance.
For as long as I can remember, I've been in love with intelligent, complicated and ominous psychological thrillers. The ones that give me chills and make me jump at the slightest provocation for days afterward.
First watching these understated, but chilling films and plays as a young girl with my mother, then with my own daughters and now my husband, I wait for the chill, that split second that makes me feel like someone is behind me, but when I turn, no one is there.
"Sequence" does not disappoint.
In this masterfully woven production, the chill came for me in the final seconds, leaving me wondering, which came first, Theo or Dr. Guzman?
If it comes back this way, don't miss it, or if you already experienced it during its Glens Falls run, see it again.