Denton — At turns as dystopian as Fahrenheit 451, at others as horrifyingly macabre as The Shining, Sundown Collaborative Theatre’s Insatiable Infatuation with Violence, conceived and directed by Paul Vaughn, offers a medley of insight and the prosaic as it explores the causes and effects of violence in contemporary society.
The narrative follows Joan (Bethany Burnside) on her search for justice after the murder her younger brother at the hands of a serial killer known as the Curator (Robert Linder)—the name deriving from the “artistic” way in which he arranges the corpses of his victims and the display’s supposed cultural commentary. Joan’s anguished pleas fall upon the deaf ears of a justice system run by effeminate degenerates, however, and she becomes lost in a ghoulish, Vaudevillian caricature of humanity that is enamored with the killer’s genius and perversely inspired by the contribution of each victim. Unable to accept this sinister reality, Joan is tossed into a mad house until she, too, can embrace its paradigm.
At times, the play’s broad scope muddies its vivid vision by throwing out vague references to the far-reaching effects of violence, such as Joan’s occupation as a defense contractor or a pair of psychotic individuals who kill out of religious zeal. But although the production struggles to delve below surface observations and clichés, it does manage to catch a small glimpse of the delicate passions that sometimes motivate violence and shock’s ability to break through to a bored culture.
If the narrative falls somewhat short and the heightened acting style runs the risk of coming off somewhat stilted, Vaughn nonetheless brings to the table a strong conceptual vision to which Insatiable Infatuation’s unspoken elements lend a raw emotional power conjured by means of a witch’s brew of narrative, choreography and filmed violence. (The ensemble also includes Robert Torres, David Helms, Jaime Menchaca, Jeremy Rodriguez, Kate McCay and Collin Miller.)
From the first dance, infused with the spookiness of a satanic ritual and the fervor of a Pentecostal revival, movement and choreography, better than the words, lay bare the characters’ marrow and, at times, infect the audience with the physical discomfort of a world gone mad.
Samantha Napier’s makeup design supports and extended this feature, turning the players into an exhibition of sickly, melancholy mimes through the gratuitously layering of black and white cosmetics. Furthermore, her horror punk costumes, characterized by top hats, ratty clothing and askew marks of distinction, rounds out the ensemble with a playful flair of nightmarish madness.