'Etched Glass Decanter' is intimate, harrowing theater 

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The Evening Crane Theatre’s “Etched Glass Decanter” delivers a growing tension carried by its cast, as well as some genuinely chilling moments.

The performance, presented in the theater of the Spirit Room, asks audiences to suspend their disbelief entirely, with a limited production in scope and size. Many props are merely mentioned and mimed, while others are placed firmly in the actor’s hands, all in a room so intimate their textures and details can be clearly seen.

The closeness inherent in this little side room of a theater cannot be overstated, and it stands to greatly benefit the performances while allowing smaller questionable decisions to be examined in detail. Alyssa Poom’s costuming, for instance, is generally good, with the characters existing simultaneously in a period long gone and out of time entirely. The astronomer, played by Reid Watson, is seemingly dressed in a simple period jacket over a t-shirt and jeans, a decision which feels out of place as he sits across a spirit dressed head to toe in otherworldly garb.

Lighting, done primarily with LEDs, is executed with subtlety, however the times in which it could have been used to great effect are sorely missed opportunities. When the actors are describing brilliant swirling oceans of colors, the possibility of allowing the lights to ebb and flow between hues appears to have escaped the team behind the production.

As previously mentioned, “ Etched Glass Decanter” is carried by its cast, with Leah Schwartz’s performance as The Astronomer’s Wife standing out among them. While Watson appears to be reciting his lines as a sonnet as much as he is acting them, Schwartz presents a grounding presence, one not yet given into the madness that permeates these scenes.

Watson’s performance as the Poe-esque Astronomer is nothing to ignore, however. Especially while alone on stage, he presents a distinct madness which echoes throughout the room. The performance serves as an unsettling reminder to audience members that they are all in a room with this madman and his spirits. The horror is not only happening directly before their eyes, but within reach of their fingertips.

While the actors all gaze past the audience as they play their parts, moments of direct eye contact manage to permeate your very soul when they happen. Lines may not all be directed at one person, but when they are, there’s a shiver which can be felt creeping its way up, vertebrae by vertebrae.

Though only part one of “Etched Glass Decanter” is presented for Fringe Fest audiences, the performances here stand out as a must-see. More performances will be available on Sept. 20 at 6 p.m., Sept. 22 at 7:30 p.m. and Sept. 23 at 9 p.m. in The Spirit Room’s Conjure Box at 139 State St.

This story is part of CITY's partnership with the students of S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications' Goldring Arts Journalism program at Syracuse University.
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