Malevolence (Capital Fringe)

by John Stoltenberg

(This review was written for DCMetroTheaterArts and is reprinted here.)

King’s Players, a young company in DC, named after Artistic Director and Founder Timothy R. King, has presented well-received original shows at the last two Capital Fringe festivals. Its 2014 offering is a debut drama written and directed by King about the psychic and relational fallout when an attractive female high school student, Sara (Jane Gibbins-Harding), accuses her thirty-two-year-old male math teacher, Rob (Mitch Irzinski), of inappropriate sexual contact. The question as to what really happened—did he or didn’t he?—hovers disturbingly over the play.

In the first scene Sara asks Rob what she can do to remedy her failing grade, and we are clearly led to suspect that quid pro quo sex with him will be the answer. Once the anonymous accusation goes public, conversations and confrontations follow between Rob and his wife (Kimberly Pyle) and daughter (Brittany Morgan), the school principal (Jacinda Bronaugh), and a teachers union rep (Nikki Gerber). Though Rob insists he’s innocent, these women all presume his guilt.

Well-conceived projections filmed and edited by Randy Philipp swiftly set up scenes, intersperse television interviews, and otherwise keep the storytelling moving briskly. But at only 40 minutes, the play seems too slight, giving its own substance short shrift. The focus stays mainly on Rob, whose role is scarcely sketched in (though Irznski performs it with compelling dimensionality). But we don’t find out much at all about Sara, and certainly not enough to make sense of the character’s curious choices. So a lot of the time Malevolence plays like David Mamet’s Oleanna lite—meaning it skims the surface of its dicey accuser-accused situation without much character texture and dramatic depth.

Still, if this script can be considered a first draft from which lessons can be learned that could prompt a richer more insightful iteration, it’s a worthy effort. And even this too-quick take provokes a headful of thought on a hot topic.

Running time: 40 minutes, with no intermission.

Malevolence plays through July 27, 2014, at Goethe Institut—Mainstage-812 7th Street NW (at I Street) in Washington, DC. For performance information and to purchase tickets, go to their Capital Fringe page.

2014 Capital Fringe Show Preview: ‘Malevolence’ by Timothy R. King.

Review of King’s Players 2013 Fringe show, ‘Mme. Macbeth,’ by Anne Tsang.

Review of King’s Players 2012 Fringe show, ‘In the Company of De Sade,’ by Amanda Gunther.