Marital strife in anything-but-idyllic 'Country'

Carl Granieri as the husband, Laura Michelle Edoff as the lover in Tiny Dynamite's "The Country." Fine direc- tion creates an urgent foreboding, and watching the skillful actors is unnerving and disquieting.
Carl Granieri as the husband, Laura Michelle Edoff as the lover in Tiny Dynamite's "The Country." Fine direc- tion creates an urgent foreboding, and watching the skillful actors is unnerving and disquieting. (DAVID O'CONNOR)
Posted: June 22, 2012

Forget Kate and Petruchio. Forget George and Martha. If you want really ferocious marital torment, watch Richard and Corinne quietly, icily go at it in Martin Crimp's The Country, which opened Wednesday night in Tiny Dynamite's elegant production at the Walnut Studio 5.

"That's not what this is about."

"Then what is it about?"

Good question.

Crimp's play is a study in ambiguity: elusive, elliptical, mysterious, The Country keeps us trying to figure out what is happening or what has happened. Some of what we know is that Richard (Carl Granieri) and Corinne (Emma Gibson) have moved, with their two children, to the country; their house, what we see of it - a wooden table and chairs, a breakfront - seems to be located inside a cave (an unsettling visual effect created by Zachary Limbert).

Richard is a physician, and his partner, Maurice, a doctor we know only from phone calls, has lied about some medical event - perhaps a patient's death - for which Richard seems to have been to blame. Maurice's interest in Corinne is problematic.

But never mind that. There is a young woman, Richard's lover Rebecca (Laura Michelle Edoff), who has attempted to leave him by moving from the city to the country, and the family's move has been his attempt to follow her. ("Her body became the city; he could unfold her like a map.") One night he brings her, unconscious, into the house and puts her to bed. Confrontations ensue. Although the scenes seem to be sequential, things happen, or are implied to have happened, that we don't see or haven't seen.

David O'Connor's fine direction creates a sense of urgent foreboding, and watching these skillful actors is unnerving and disquieting. Granieri has one of those dimples that makes it impossible to read what his face is saying, while Gibson is both nerve-wrackingly serene and unglued. As Rebecca, Edoff creates an utterly postmodern personality - vicious and needy, intellectual and mocking.

Virgil, the Latin poet, is invoked several times, as though to comment on the deterioration of the pastoral tradition, a vulgar lament for the land, the countryside, lacking the sheep and shepherds.

Deeply in Pinter's debt, Crimp uses language and silence like a surgeon, although it is hard to tell whether the patient has been saved or murdered by his operation; as one character says, "There is a limit to what the two of us can say in words."


The Country

Presented by Tiny Dynamite Productions at Walnut Street Theatre Studio 5, Ninth and Walnut Streets. Through July 1. Tickets $15-$20. Information: www.tinydynamite.org or 1-800-838-3006.


Follow Toby Zinman on Twitter at #philastage. Read her reviews at www.philly.com/phillystage.

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