Eat prey, love: Dystopian play shows the gory extremes of bad romance

Eat prey, love: Dystopian play shows the gory extremes of bad romance
Photo by Caroline Ourso

It’s a dog-eat-dog world.

A bizarre new play will use a terrifying landscape of cannibals and flesh-eating canines to examine the selfishness of human relationships. “The Dog, The Night, and The Knife,” written by the German playwright Marius van Mayenburg and translated into English by Maja Zade, will have its United States premiere at the Irondale in Fort Greene on March 15. It tells the story of “M,” a woman who finds herself pursued through a brutal dystopia where time is stuck in the middle of the night, according to its director.

“The play is her journey through the night where she’s being hunted and chased by blood-thirsty creatures and trying to survive and trying not to become one of them,” said Yuri Kordonsky, who also teaches directing at Yale.

The main character must fight her way through a world of people infected by what the playwright calls “the hunger,” who are driving to hunt and consume their loved ones, reflecting the selfish nature of real-life human relationships, said Kordonsky.

“The inhabitants of the world are hungry, which manifests in the desire to eat the person you love. It’s about relationships and how selfish and possessive and consuming they might be,” he said. “Almost everything we can love has an element of possession and consuming, and the pure act of generous love is an extremely rare thing in this world.”

M’s journey seems hopeless until she meets the character “Younger Sister,” and the two break the rules of the play’s bleak universe by falling in love in a selfless way, the director said.

“They discover that relationships can be something else, giving rather than taking,” he said.

The play’s nightmarish landscape is also occupied by ravenous stray dogs, played by human actors. Rather than make the thespians crawl on all fours and bark, Kordonsky and his team bridged the gap between man and beast more subtly.

“We work on movements that might be reminiscent of dogs in their movement, some vocal techniques the actors use that remind you of howling and barking,” Kordonsky said.

The play is violent, but the director said his rendition will not be gory. Instead, the violence is portrayed in a more abstract way, which could be even more unsettling to the audience.

“There’s knives and multiple stabbings going on, bleeding wounds. We take this rather metaphorically — nothing that we put on stage is graphic or gory,” he said. “It’s a story that unsettles you and should disturb.”

Kordonsky and his partners from the production company Just Toys were captured by the play’s visceral power, he said, even though it was difficult to decipher. The piece’s abstract nature became an appealing challenge to the team, according to the director.

“There was a combination of a sense of very strong and attractive mystery, the gut visceral feeling that it’s good, and the challenge to understand it on an intellectual level,” he said. “But this is exactly when you know that you have to do a play. When you know exactly from the beginning how to do a play, there’s no point in doing it.”

“The Dog, The Night, and The Knife,” at Irondale [85 S. Oxford St., at Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene, www.irondale.org, (718) 488–9233]. March 15–April 6; Mon, Wed–Sat at 7:30 pm. $30.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Nightlife: The character played by Julia Ubrankovics is trapped in endless darkness, in the bizarre play “The Dog, the Night, and the Knife.”
Photo by Caroline Ourso