Director-scenic designer Joel Sass has created a dreamy work of performance art that muses on folklore and modern marketing in the form of “The Sugar Troll”, an advertising icon for a New England maple syrup company. These are the springboards for a darkly enchanting theatrical experience at Open Eye Theatre. In The Beldenville Troll: A New England Gothic, a feral Neal Skoy lives under a bridge by a walled up entrance to an old railroad tunnel. Sean Healey’s impressionistic sound design with its vivid voiceovers and nostalgic music choices evokes a stream of aural imagery that underscores the judgments held against The Troll, who we come to suspect is manifested in the unnamed main character played by Skoy.
Sass’s concept, however, moves beyond a standard denunciation of rustic narrow-mindedness. The Troll is not actually an outcast because he was never was actually within the village itself, but below the earth, and beyond it in the wildness of the natural environment protected from human intrusion. Unfortunately for him, in Sass’s work the main character is encroached upon by pettily vicious human negativity. The Troll figure embodies what literary theorist Leslie Fiedler puts forth as “the other”, something that small townies and city slickers alike are known to discriminate against. Moreover, he is not only corporeal but he exists somewhere in the twilight zone intersection of myth, lore, and the subconscious.
Sass the sorcerer has sprinkled the stardust of various fine talents throughout. Chloe Bell adds delicate support as The Troll’s kindred spirit in human form. Supporting artists Max Mainwood and Kalen Keir blend nicely into various functions that bring them onstage and display their puppetry talents. Bill Healey’s lighting and an utterly cryptic use of silhouette effects, movingly convey the plight of trolls and unloved babies. It recalls horror films of the silent era.
The spiritual core of this mystical production is ultimately and clearly Skoy’s raw and primal performance as a figure untouched by the socializing ramifications of human intervention. Most human personalities are constructed to some degree by a social world imposed upon them by other humans and institutions. The Troll has not. Skoy elicits a purity that endears and even makes us fear for his character’s safety in a world where the mean-spirited side of human nature appears to have the upper hand.
The Beldenville Troll (A New England Gothic)
Through April 14
Open Eye Figure Theatre, 506 E. 24th St., Minneapolis