Fear not

Inis Nua Theatre Company presents David Greig’s The Monster in the Hall’

3 minute read
Greig's play feels sprung from a creative teenager's imagination. (Photo by Plate 3 Photography.)
Greig's play feels sprung from a creative teenager's imagination. (Photo by Plate 3 Photography.)

Scottish playwright David Greig's play with music The Monster in the Hall feels like it burst from a creative teenager's overactive imagination. Director Claire Moyer's splendid Inis Nua production in the cozy Louis Bluver Theatre bubbles over with charm and whimsy while exploring the story's serious themes. ​

This tonal balancing act is reminiscent of Greig's Midsummer, which won four Barrymore Awards for Inis Nua in 2014.

The ugly duckling

In The Monster in the Hall, the story of 16-year-old Duck (Claris Park) starts with a loud crash. That event is eventually explained, but most of the action occurs on the day of a visit from a Child Services social worker, Mrs. Underhill (Eleni Delopoulos). Since Duck's father (Doug Durlacher) suffers from multiple sclerosis and is newly blind, cleaning up their messy flat and cooking lunch become urgent problems.

Apollo Mark Weaver's set holds two tilted platforms, trash overflowing from beneath them. Above, a web of clothesline is festooned with not only garments but kitchen gear. Immediately, this design suggests the show's imaginative style.

The arrivals of "out of my league" classmate Lawrence (Jamison Foreman) and a surprise visitor from Norway (Delopoulos) further complicate the day.

Duck's name is short for the Ducati motorcycle brand. She's very much the bespectacled shy girl who could be a beauty if she would only remove her glasses and untie her hair. It’s a stereotype that's effectively mocked here.

Much fun is made of this and other storytelling elements. The cast narrate the action as themselves (without Scottish accents), then slip deftly into thick brogues. When Delopoulos's two characters need to be onstage simultaneously, the actor's problem is hilariously acknowledged. One revelation is even announced as "clearly a metaphor for the things we can't face."

The 95-minute play keeps exploding with surprises. There are several fantasy cutaways; appearances by Duck's advisors, the “Fairy of Catastrophe" and the “Fairy of Normality"; a hilarious scene in which Durlacher and Delopoulos play their online avatars; and much pantomimed action, including a road race.

The energetic cast excels in these challenges. Durlacher's performance as a blind man with MS is accurate and sensitive. Delopoulos and Foreman rush from one well-defined character to another with minimal costume changes. Park believably plays Duck as a teen with big dreams, haunting memories, and mercurial emotional shifts.

Moreover, they perform the 95-minute show's songs, sung snippets, and live underscoring, playing a wide variety of instruments. The show's original production featured music by the group Moonglass, but Inis Nua's is enhanced by a delightful score composed by Foreman.

Bring the kids

The Monster in the Hall premiered in 2010 in a Scottish high school and community college. Teenagers should find it relevant and neither preachy nor condescending. In America, however, its candid mentions of blowjobs, homosexuality, and death would provoke adults to condemn it — though our kids are inundated by such topics in television, film, and online.

It's a familiar irony, the efforts by some adults to keep teenagers ignorant until they're 18 and suddenly qualified to understand everything. Anyone honest about their teenage years will recall that sex and social acceptance are major preoccupations, and coping with loss is particularly challenging.

The imaginative theatrical devices used so well in The Monster in the Hall will delight everyone, but Duck's story could actually inform and inspire teenagers.

What, When, Where

The Monster in the Hall. By David Greig, Claire Moyer directed. Inis Nua Theatre Company. Through October 21, 2018, at the Drake's Louis Bluver Theatre, 302 S. Hicks Street, Philadelphia. (215) 454-9776 or

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