Blood and Mercury, presented by Inner Circle Theater Company. At the Auction House in Ojai, Sunday, August 27. Shows through September 3.
Reviewed by Sara Barbour
It’s easy to drive by the tiny Auction House in Ojai a dozen times or more without realizing it’s there. Even with eyes peeled and map in hand, it is difficult to identify the unimposing square building. Beyond the ticket table, rows of porcelain dolls and mounted antelope heads await the building’s return to its ordinary function as a working auction house. But, last Sunday, nestled in among objects stored for future sale, I found the intimate set for Jewels Eubanks’s Blood and Mercury, the latest adventurous production from Inner Circle Theater Company.
Past the black curtains that separate the Auction House entryway from its stage, a seemingly timeless journey of stimulating theater and music begins. A reverie of lights, movement, and impressive guitar and vocals create the vibrant backdrop for a series of physical and verbal exchanges that are all the more striking for their unconventionality.
The play does fine without a linear plot, yet manages nonetheless — perhaps in part because of its comfortably loose structure—to conjure that mysterious and elusive quality which causes us to be moved. Crafted with the intention to “explore the boundaries of what theater can be,” this experimental musical weaves dance and monologue into the evolution of the play itself and into the struggle of its creators to grasp the meaning of theater — and life — in all its various forms. Once inside the pulsating womb of red lights and throbbing bass that Inner Circle has made of the auction house, the audience gradually becomes aware that Blood and Mercury is not merely a single piece of theater, but rather the meshing together of lives both fictional and real — offering a deeply emotional experience for everyone in the room that works on many, often probing levels.
Yet this is not to say that I understood all of them. I was confused at times, and I’m certain that at least some aspects of the production eluded me. But the moments of piercing clarity — sudden epiphanies, bursts of raw and uncovered truth — more than made up for the struggle with confusion. Watching Blood and Mercury is a bit like stumbling into a dream: undeniably strange at times, strikingly beautiful at others, but somehow, in that way which we can never quite explain, coming together to make perfect sense.