It’s no walk in the park for the two existential characters in NURSE PLAY (@ BPT through Dec. 17th), seemingly compelled to lacerate old wounds while trapped in a darkened, creaky Saran wrapped room. The happy news is that James Wilkinson’s tortured little play is a rousing walk on the wild side for the audience.
Wilkinson’s company, EXILED THEATRE specializes in dark, absurdist fare so it comes as no surprise that NURSE PLAY will remind you (briefly) of Sartre or Beckett or Stephen King, for that matter…but you’re soon caught up in Wilkinson’s fiercely intelligent dialogue and canny allusions, as nurse (Susannah Wilson) and patient (Cody Sloan) execute a gory, metaphorical chess game to determine who is in charge of the premises.
It’s clear that this “lady with the lamp” is no Florence Nightingale. Nurse Ratched is more like it, by way of Sweeney Todd! Nor is the patient himself without sin. Oh, no. No angels here. Revelations practically congeal your blood, even as you giggle at Wilkinson’s audacity. If you like your comedy on the grisly side, then NURSE PLAY is your tonic.
The most distressing discoveries in NURSE PLAY have a sublime sound track. There simply isn’t anything more delightfully funny than watching Susannah Wilson groove out to BLONDIE: “One way or another, [she’s] gonna get ya’…. get ya’ get ya’ get ya’ get ya’.” (Kudos to movement director Kayleigh Kane for the hilarious choreography.)
Director Joe Jukenievich cuts to the bone, the funny bone it turns out, with his take no prisoners staging. Every time Sloan’s gangrenous foot touches the floor, you wince from the pain but it’s always followed by Wilkinson’s biting satire.
My absolute favorite line in the play, having just experienced a real life NURSE PLAY (where, after surviving a near fatal car crash, I almost bled to death from flossing when prescribed way too much blood thinner) is Sloan’s “They never would have done this in a hospital.” I’m here to tell you, life is theater of the absurd and yes they would.
Wilkinson has so much meaty material in NURSE PLAY that my only quibble is that perhaps it’s too much muscle. I thought it had ended a couple of times before it really did but I couldn’t tell you what I would remove, it’s all so clever.