Sneaky Little Armageddons

Fever Theater at the B&O Warehouse, 107 SE Washington St. #207 B, 233-4420. Thurs-Sun 8 pm, $10-15.

Eva Nicely (Firiel Galloway) lives inside a tiny, agoraphobic world--the world of a shut-in, kept company only by the whirling neurosis of her mind. The weight of the books on her shelf (David Foster Wallace, Dylan Thomas, Bulfinch's Mythology) threatens to cave in the floor, and the air smells like Earl Grey tea and depression. When Eva speaks it feels at first like a monologue to the audience, until one realizes that Eva is simply talking to herself. When she writes letters, she only writes to the dearly departed; letters to the dead that are never sent, and never read. One day, Eva impulsively advertises for a border in her home, which seems like a positive step toward normalcy, but is more likely a desperate attempt to affirm her own existence.

Enter Annelle and Dave, prospective tenants who completely shatter Eva's tea-supping convalescence. Annelle (Aurora Erlander-Miller), dubbed by the national press "The Luckiest Girl in America," is the tragic survivor of a nearly fatal auto accident. Her face has been reconstructed in the image of the American dream, with resemblance to Jessica Lynch and Alice in Wonderland. In contrast to Eva's nonexistent public persona, Annelle's Time magazine life is a living hell of overexposure. Dave (Janusz Ostrycharz) is a depressed insurance salesman who is acutely aware of his own death and dresses like Willy Loman. The three characters, now a strange, incestuous family, enter into an affectionate tearing-down of one another.

Fever Theater's newest original play is an elegant example of Portland's potential for great, thoughtful works of collaboration. Director Jacob Coleman and writers Matthew Ward Nicely and the Mercury's own Justin Wescoat Sanders (who, yes, paid me handsomely for this glowing review) have created a structure where the performers and designers are equally vital to the work. Certainly Kate Sanderson's visual design is delicate and terrifying, with flames creeping up the walls and mirrors shattering conventional space. Likewise, Elias Foley's sound design, in tandem with Frank Marroquin's cello performance, slides into the subconscious, like the soundtrack to sleeping pill dreams. For such a balancing act of production, Armageddons often teeters suspensefully, but fans of screwball romances and midnight seances will squirm with terror and delight. TOUSSAINT PERRAULT