Sex and war leave similar scars in Sarah Kane’s deeply disturbing “Blasted.”
The 23-year-old playwright blazed onto the theatrical scene in 1995 with this ultraviolent play that repulsed many with its extreme scenes of violence and human degradation. Four years later, Kane would die by her own hand, leaving six plays about people wounded by life.
“Blasted” starts as a naturalistic if tawdry love story about an assignation between gun-toting, gin-swilling, chain-smoking journalist Ian (Ron Choularton) and his 21-year-old former mistress Cate (Gemma Grey) at a posh Leeds hotel.
Ian is Welsh by birth, a racist xenophobe with vile things to say about nearly everyone, occasionally including Cate. When he tells Cate “I’m not well,” he is talking about his deep, soul-rattling cough, but his sickness is more than physical.
Cate, who stutters and suffers fainting spells when stressed, must have been a young teen when she first hooked up with Ian. Now she is older and no longer interested in sex with this man.
But Ian doesn’t take no for answer; when seduction fails, he overpowers and rapes her.
In the nightmarish second part of the play, the unseen hotel window reveals the sounds of violence outside. “Looks like there’s a war on,” Cate says.
While Cate showers, a Soldier (Steve Lone) bursts in, rifle ablaze, apparently in search of food. He quickly disarms Ian and wolfs down what’s left of breakfast.
Then he speaks about that other human need, waxing rapturous about his girlfriend, finally noting “My girl -- not going back to her ... She’s dead, see. Fuc*ing bastard soldie ...”
More indescribably inhuman violence will ensue, both outside and in. Cate goes out and returns with a nearly dead baby given to her by the mother who could no longer care for her.
Another foray outside for food nets a bottle of gin and a sandwich. Cate eats hungrily, finally passing the rest to Ian, in the lone humane act of the play.
“Blasted” is said to have been inspired by observed racism and sexual abuse in Britain and by the horrors of the Bosnian “ethnic cleansing” (and mass rape of women) of the 1990s.
Claudio Raygoza’s taut direction and Karin Filijan’s insistent and louder-than-usual sound design make this visual play seem more cinematic than most.
Choularton and Grey seem almost as empty (perhaps the word is dead) as the playwright indicates they are. Lone effectively (and squirm-inducingly) brings the aftermath of war – death and broken people – inside, forcing us to watch.
“Blasted” is not for everyone – probably not even for many. But if you’re an adventurous theatergoer, better hurry – this offering from ion’s “Off the Radar” series closes Feb. 18.
“Blasted” plays through Feb. 18 at ion theatre’s BLK BOX @ 6th & Penn, 3704 Sixth Ave. in Hillcrest.
Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 4 and 8 pm.
For tickets, call (619) 600-5020 or visit HERE.
To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.