Action/Adventure’s “Disassembly”

Steve Yockey's black comedy couches evil deeds in social graces.

Meet Ellen and Evan. Don't they look nice? Have some lemonade.

Meet Ellen and Evan. Don’t they look nice? Have some lemonade.

Ellen and Evan (Noelle Eaton, James Luster) are fraternal twins who share an apartment and dress to match. Evan’s kind and easygoing, but terribly injury-prone—in fact, he’s freshly injured, bandaged and bleeding, as Action/Adventure’s “Disassembly” begins. As his sister Ellen and his girlfriend Diane (Jai Lavette) nervously nurse his condition, a couple comes to visit—or rather, an almost-couple: Stanley (Pat Moran) loves Tessa (Cecily Crow), but Tessa only likes him as a since-childhood friend. For much of the play, the pair roosts uncomfortably on their twin acquaintances’ couch, unsure of whether to stay or go in the face of Evan’s (seemingly stabilized?) crisis.

One of these five people is a killer. Another, a dangerous psychotic.

A dissonant whine will fill the room, strange shadows will encroach from the sides of the stage, and a culprit will snap into a reverie, confessing unspeakable deeds or even bursting into impromptu gospel song.

Meanwhile, pestering neighbors Jerome and Mirabelle (Evan Ward, Greta Pauly West), seeming embodiments of diagnosable social disorders, use the crisis as an excuse to indulge their unwelcome crushes on the twins through a series of surprise visits. Mirabelle makes repeated noise complaints but angles to come in, and Jerome proposes to “comfort” Ellen from the stress of Evan’s accident.

Two of these seven total characters will be marked for murder and one new murderer will be recruited.

Before the play is over, you’ll see a blood-spattered stage fight partially hidden behind the couch*, and you’ll be privy to further impending violence offstage. And guess what else? You’ll probably root for these kills, sympathizing more with the murderers’ annoyance than the victims’ rights.

Does that seem too sinister for your blood? Take heart; “Disassembly” is redemptively hilarious. Steve Yockey’s script is consistently quotable (“You make your own luck.” “I’m here, I’m good, it’s my turn!” “The universe uses me for sport.”) and Action/Adventure weilds razor-sharp comic timing. At turns, the audience gasps and guffaws at the action, while sympathetic monologues make a near-acceptable case for why some characters must die. A growing blood spot on Evan’s shirt drives home the life/death urgency of the context, while a pertly surreal living room set plays up the shallowness of social graces.

I’m not exactly sure what the animal fables of a fox and a crow that bookend the production have to do with the rest of the story. While they’re cute and memorable, they seem to come and go with their own plot-perpendicular moral: social immersion brings both risk and reward, where social isolation brings neither. But when the risk posed by others is your very life and limb, as the bulk of the play suggests, the only sensible choice is isolation, right? Perhaps that’s the ultimate conundrum: How much is your family and social life worth to you? Would you kill or die for it?

Don’t worry; you don’t have to answer that to enjoy this deft, poetically misanthropic play.

*While Action/Adventure’s living room drama was administering beat-downs behind a couch, Post5 hosted a two-night stand of Seattle’s The Rooster Group’s “Forty Wonderful,” whose sofa partially obscured a different kind of action: an uproarious middle-aged three-way! You know what they say; what happens behind the couch, stays…

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A. L. Adams also writes for  The Portland Mercury and is  former arts editor of Portland Monthly Magazine.
Read more from Adams: Oregon ArtsWatch  | The Portland Mercury
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