Sharp Critic : Christopher Soden

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Ode to Intoxication: Ochre House’s brilliant Romantic Night

Christopher Soden
March 26, 2021
Matthew Posey in The Romantic Night

Ghosts in the Kitchen : The Romantic Night encourages ambivalence. Maybe 20 minutes in, you either want to reach for the bottle or you never want to touch another drop. Our unnamed protagonist launches into a monologue, after rooting through the fridge for sliced cheese and luncheon meat and stuffing it into his mouth. He then locates a bottle of Jack Daniels and a shotglass, and takes a seat at the kitchen table. He is (to put it kindly) disheveled. Unshaven, unwashed (I’m thinking) rumpled clothes, drooping eyelids. A mess. He is trying to find his way back to the events of the previous evening. He needs to cut through a blackout. He will take a shot immediately, followed by numerous others, throughout the piece. Very possibly to find the cerebral geography of the night before. He is, surprisingly, fairly focused. You’d expect him to keel over in the twinkling of a bloodshot eye.

He keeps going back to the details of his odyssey from the bar, till he made his intrepid way home, on foot. It might be his social drinking hijinks, or his collapses, or the busy streets, or the cops, or the gaze inside the window of a mansion, where all is posh and urbane. This opulence he will never enjoy, is excruciating, and follows him long after he’s returned to his own humble hearth. Farts and belches. Pain and rumination. Vertigo and dread. A swim through the black river of loss and despondency and a thousand bruises. Alcohol has a way of ramping things up. Everything is in your face or impossible to reach. Possibly both.

I have spoken before about Ochre House Theater: The Palace of Dreams and Nightmares. You would be hard-pressed to find a playwright with the chops and imaginative verve of Matthew Posey. Like Shakespeare, The Romantic Night overflows with dense, exquisite language. One image after another, muscular verbs, phantasmagoria and turpitude and swoony metaphors. In contemporary American English. I do not say this lightly: if this piece isn’t legit poetry, it’s very, very close. We are submerged in the profoundly disturbing world of our hero’s inebriation. We get the feeling he’s never sober. (His bloodtype could be Nazi From Hell.) The language is so gorgeous you don’t want to miss a word, yet we’re held hostage to nerve-wracking content. Posey (and Ochre House) create this grotesquely glorious experience, marrying hedonism, torture and oblivion. Matthew Posey also plays our protagonist and directs. I cannot say strongly enough, you will never find a comparable performance in another theater.

Ochre House Theater presents: Ghosts in the Kitchen : The Romantic Night, written directed and performed by Matthew Posey.