Magazine article American Theatre

Time to Pay the Piper

Magazine article American Theatre

Time to Pay the Piper

Article excerpt

Jim Grimsley has a vision of a world on the edge of apocalypse. It's not an Orwellian futurist fantasy, however - the world he sees is our own. "I think we're in trouble," Grimsley says. "Something is moving on a grand scale." After an absence of several years from his hometown, the 40-year-old playwright and novelist lays bare his foreboding vision when he returns to Atlanta's 7 Stages with a pair of spare, stylized plays premiering through May 19 under the title The Decline and Fall of the Rest.

"With all our meddling, we have set off something that we can't stop," Grimsley says. "That's part of what I'm trying to say. Even the gods can only protect you so far; if you really screw things up, you're going to have to pay for it. It's not a matter of revenge - it's just how the world responds."

The relationship between audience and characters is uneasy at best in Decline and Fall, and Grimsley uses this dynamic of discomfort to explore the nature of theatre and its rituals. "You think this is a play, don't you?" one character demands of the spectators. And later: "We're not actors, we're people. We came here because we had to."

"I don't want the audience to be antagonized by the actors so much as I want them to feel they're at an event unfolding in front of them," the author explains. "I want the reality of the event - the mystery and especially the ritual nature of it - to become more important than the fact that it's theatre."

In Maya, the first of the two plays (which are co-directed by Del Hamilton and Faye Allen), the title character is eaten from inside by a force only he or she can see. (Grimsley designates that either a man or a woman can play Maya. At 7 Stages, the character is female, played by Henriette Browers.) In The Non, a sumptuous fertility goddess (Donna Edmonds) demands that Hardin (Daniel May) sacrifice his lover Ollie (Smart Culpepper) so that she can renew herself. …

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