Ixion steps over the line with its opening show
LANSING, Mich.–No parent of a teenager or young adult is unfamiliar with the concept of their child being possessed by a demon. It doesn’t even seem like speculative fiction.
But in Walt McGough’s play, Chalk, currently opening Ixion’s season, the demon takes a more literal sense and the mother has only a thin line of chalk to protect her from being devoured by the creature that has taken over her daughter.
It’s a tense dance, with the mother having to resist the temptation to respond to her daughter’s provocations, invitations to fight that would only destroy them both. It’s tough love taken to a new level in this post-apocalyptic world where hungry otherworldly beings have landed and devoured the souls of most of Earth’s inhabitants.
This one-hour play is directed by Oralya Garza and it is a taut piece that grows in tension until it explodes in the final climax.
The two actors in this show are Sara Frank-Hepfer playing the mother, Maggie, and Elie Weise playing the demon-possessed daughter, Cora.
Frank-Hepfer is steady and grounded in this role, a strong woman who is at peace with her own failures and determined to do whatever is necessary to survive. She brings a maturity and depth to this role that makes the play rich in both story and theme.
Weise has a disdainful energy that makes her character a constant threat. She is both young adult and monster, but always relatable, human even at her most alien. It’s a challenge that Weise undertakes well.
Together their chemistry keeps things suspenseful as they both try to beat the other at a game where the stakes are as high as they can get.
McGough’s writing is terse and he does an excellent job of getting inside the minds of these two women and exploring the extremes of a mother-daughter relationship condensed into one explosive confrontation.
The small set at The Robins Theater contributes to the intensity of the show. Maggie must stay within her chalk circle, but Cora has only a little more freedom than her desired victim. SaDonna Croff’s set dressing keeps things crowded and quickly communicates that the end of the world has passed.
The cramped space also makes John Lennox’s fight choreography even more impressive, for it is intense and exciting and highly realistic despite how close the audience is to the stage.
Ixion has opened their season with a show that explores a lot of themes. It dissects familial relationships, explores the importance of memory, and questions ways we can overcome our fears. It does all this with a fast-moving story that engages and holds attention.