The Weird Dark World of Archibald Avery
Any writer can identify with the central character’s initial problem in the new musical premiering at Cape Rep in Brewster: he has a deadline, and he’s running out of ideas. From that rather ordinary beginning, though, things spin very quickly out of control. Characters take over the narrative and lead the author down paths both twisted and terrifying.
Who is Archibald Avery? The character came to Macklin Devine—the writer behind the writer in the musical—back when he was bored in Latin class one day and began doodling. He’d heard it said that people with two first names couldn’t be trusted, and so he invented one that, furthermore, lived in a shack. A scary shack.
Fast-forward to 2023, and Macklin—along with brothers Paddo and Seamus—is writing a musical, and he decides to resuscitate his old friend from high school, a twisted character who now doesn’t only live in a shack but also embodies every child’s (and parent’s) worst fears, abducting and murdering children. The writer seizes upon Avery’s story, but quickly comes to realize that it is indeed, in a very creepy way, a story the character is himself somehow creating. This causes some understandable angst.
It’s a dark view of the world, but as one of the “authors” (all three brothers are playing the role of the hapless writer) asks, “are the bad stories not worth telling?” He cites Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica and admits that “truth is always buried in a cliché.” It’s an exploration of the creative process but also a reminder of our shared mythology, the nighttime fear of the monsters that live under the bed.
Or just down the street.
The three brothers are joined onstage by Jess Andra and Brian Lore Evans, who should be commended, not only for brilliant acting and singing, but also for their ability to integrate their energy into the frankly fabulous Devine energy—the three brothers are close enough, and work together enough, to have clear connections that are visible onstage, to the point of it really not mattering which is the “author” at any given time; they’re an entity unto themselves. Yet hold the stage and audience attention Andra and Evans do.
Lest you think the storyline too dark, know there are moments—quite a few, in fact—of wonderful humor. In a brief nod to the Rolling Stones, the writer laments, “I can’t get no fresh ideas/ I can’t get no meatballs from Ikea,” and the rather sad humor of a description of a little girl: “She longed for archaeology; they sent her out to sell cookies.” (And then there is, of course, this writer’s own delight in the flexible use of language, as we’re told someone is “Cheshiring like a cat.”)
Archibald Avery was commissioned by Cape Rep, thanks in large part to producing artistic director Janine Perry’s commitment to finding and showcasing new theatrical voices. The voices themselves are familiar to Cape audiences, as the show was conceived, written, and largely performed by Paddo, Seamus, and Macklin Devine, the sons of playwright Art Devine and Cape Rep associate artistic director Maura Hanlon. That makes them at home in the theater, though their rock band, Club 9 Ball, has garnered them more attention (so far!) on- and off-Cape. But they clearly have a future in the theater; they’re bringing substantial and creative musical experience and sensibilities to the stage in often-beautiful harmonics—not exactly their usual fare, but done with grace and poignancy.
Scenic designer Ryan McGettingan has once again provided a perfect backdrop to this story, using every inch of the stage to create various story components, from dirt to bulkhead to stairs to all the various unusual musical instruments required by the script (including the use of both a typewriter and a bicycle). And Maura Hanlon’s direction is deft, subtle, and expressive.
Guaranteed to be nothing like anything you’ve seen before, Archibald Avery is at the Cape Rep through May 7th. All images Bob Tucker/Focalpoint Studio.