The Captive 2CROPPED


This year’s Fringe Arts Festival features a conglomeration of local masterpieces that radiate creativity and burst with color and character, and the Philadelphia Artists’ Collective with their brilliant production of The Captive is no exception. Local visionary Dan Hodge (The Rape of Lucrece, Mary Stuart, The Duchess of Malfi), specifically selected Philadelphia’s historic Physick House as the venue to breathe life into Edouard Bordet’s infamous period piece. The audience was moved from room to room within the breathtaking mansion to witness each act of the presentation, making for a kinetic and enthralling performance about passion, love, entrapment and torture. The Captive is an exquisite Parisian melodrama is set in the late 1800’s that frames the life of Irene De Montcel, a stunning yet elusive girl with a secret.  All that is revealed about her is that she is unhappy with every aspect of her life except for the passionate love affair she secretly carries on with an enigmatic stranger — who is later revealed to be a woman. In order to ensure that her secret is never exposed to her blue blood family, Irene enters into a fake engagement with her childhood sweetheart Jacques, who is still very much in lust with her, in order to ward off the suspicions of her family. What unfolds is a parasitic marriage of convenience between the two, and a toxic downward spiral that leaves the audience pondering the dark essence of the two main characters, while questioning which one is the captor and which one is the captive. Rachel Brodeur and Chase Byrd turned in riveting performances as Irene and Jacque, respectively. Even with a borderline lackluster script, the raw portrayals delivered by the actors were simply enthralling.  As the action gains momentum in the second and third acts, the chemistry between the two protagonists released such raw fervency into the atmosphere that the whole room felt as though it were swelling with emotion. By the time the piece had reached its climax, it felt as if the parlor room was shrinking and the actors were growing.  All told Dan Hodge’s The Captive was an experience, not a performance.  The moment you step into the parlor room of the Physick House you lose your sense of self as your identity merges with the extravagant antiques adorning the home. By the second act it is clear that we are no longer an audience watching a show, we are voyeurs glimpsing deeply personal snapshots of Irene and Jacques’ tragic lives — which is, of course, the highest praise you can confer on a work of theater. — ELIZABETH MARIE WIEST