What can I say? I LOVED The House by the Swamp. So much so that I had to see it twice—I caught the opening night as well as the closing night. The thought of the show makes me so happy because it is such a thing of complex beauty.
First of all, it is so original. I’d never seen anything like it. It is an analytical look at how our society deals with violence—some people by resigning themselves to it as “just a part of life,” a few by trying to retreat from our violent world by running away (both physically as well as emotionally).
Through a series of very human and thought-provoking conversations between characters, the play looks at human-committed violence in its various forms: violence done to human beings in war, etc. and violence done to other sentient beings like animals, causing the viewer to consider the similarities between the two and examine her own views on the subject.
But make no mistake. The House by the Swamp doesn’t feel heavy-handed or didactic or claim to have the answers. From start to finish, it is art above all else—with striking acting performances given especially by Jola Cora (who not only stars as Leela, but also wrote and directed), Jake Waxman (who plays the head of the rebels) and the doctor (whose real name I can’t find online right now). The mood of the piece is at times, contemplative, wistful, fearful, humorous, erotic, tense, euphoric, playful, mysterious…
Add to all this a look at nature and psychedelics, and I guarantee that you will not walk away from this play feeling like you can easily categorize it. Or dismiss its presence from your mind.
I’m so glad I went to see it again, as the final show was the polished jewel of the opening night’s still-slightly-rough gem. (All the technological bugs got worked out and the acting took on the full authority and power that it was meant to have.)
Oh wait, did I mention the gorgeous paintings or the colorful eye-candy videos projected as backdrops to the action in some scenes? I could go on… As the play mentions twice, “Everyone has a treasure inside. And the gift to search for it.” The House by the Swamp is itself a treasure. Which, in the process of finding on the stage, the viewer also discovers within herself/himself.