Matthew Reddin

Theatre Gigante’s “Dust” too unsettled

The Hungarian dark comedy never develops a consistent focus, and lingers too long over its tale of a couple who wins the lottery.

By - Feb 9th, 2013 12:51 pm
Sign-up for the Urban Milwaukee daily email

In “Dust,” John Kishline and Isabelle Kralj play a Hungarian couple who suddenly win a lottery jackpot.

What would you do if you won the lottery? Buy a fancy villa on the Mediterranean? Toss it in the bank and live off the interest? Pass it along to your children or take it all for yourself?

The lottery winners in Dust, by Hungarian playwright György Spiro, just talk. They talk about what they will do with the millions they have won, bicker about the cost of all the previous lottery tickets and ultimately fight over whether or not to take the money at all.

You see, the nameless couple depicted in Theatre Gigante’s production by John Kishline and Isabelle Kralj has reached an insurmountable point of stagnancy and indecision. They cannot decide what to do with the money because they have lived so long in poverty it is all they know. His response to winning is to develop a nervous, shaky tic, and walk about their small kitchen laugh-sobbing into his hands. Hers is to break loose from reality, bouncing back and forth from what-if to what-if.

Such a premise holds a great deal of promise, but it seems a promise wasted. While the play is only 80 to 90 minutes, it feels stretched out to twice what it should be, and there’s rarely a peak or valley sharp enough in the couple’s back-and-forth to stave off the boredom that sinks in. It’s hard to play a stagnant couple without making the play feel stagnant as well, and it shows.

Spiro’s dialogue should have helped fix that problem. There’s an odd, detached cadence to it, distinctively non-American/British drama. When Kishline and Kralj hit just the right rhythm, it sings: she bounding from discussing their manor in Yugoslavia to wondering what country of former-Yugoslavia she’s even talking about to denouncing the idea of having a manor at all, all while he vacillates between fueling her compulsivity and trying to get her to decide on something.

But there’s no consistency. More often than not, the jumps are manic and disorienting, with no discernable focus or reason to pay attention. Kralj is the primary offender – her unstable speech and thought patterns start elevated from the beginning of the play, and never wax or wane to make them interesting to follow – but Kishline occasionally strays too far from the mark as well.

Dust does have its share of successes – Kishline and Kralj are pitch-perfect as a married-for-decades couple, and there’s a wry humor to the piece that suits their portrayal well. They and director Mark Anderson just don’t do enough to make those moments feel less like we’re lucky to have them.

Theatre Gigante’s Dust, written by György Spiro and translated by Andrew Bock, runs through Feb. 16 at Kenilworth Studios. Tickets are $26 online or call (414) 229-4308.

Categories: Arts & Culture, Theater

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *