The “black box” theater is a tricky environment. Actors and audience, being so close to one another in a tight setting, enter into a kind of silent agreement – we see them sweat, they hear us breathe. Actually, it’s a bit like a date. We start out eager for it all to go well, maybe laughing a little too hard, being charmed. But it can end awkwardly. Or go brilliantly.
Solas Nua has the black box date down. In a tiny square nestled in the Flashpoint Gallery (properly known as the Flashpoint Mead Theatre Lab), they keep things sparse and simple, focusing on brutally provocative plays featuring actors who relish the meat of contemporary Irish drama. It works. I’ve yet to see a lazy or self-indulgent piece performed here (last year’s startling Disco Pigs was the first play in a long time to punch me in the gut so hard I cried).
On a given performance of Johnny Meister + The Stitch, the immediacy of live theater is strongly evident as you watch the beads of sweat slowly trickle down Chris Dinolfo’s face as he stands (briefly, it’s a fast clip) lit by long flourescent bulbs. Or the dangerous crackle of Rex Daugherty’s eyes as he makes momentary eye contact with an audience member. This is the thrill of the black box theater, and it’s highlighted by this American premiere of Rosemary Jenkinson’s play about two rough Belfast boys and one wild night.