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THEATRE REVIEW: WTF’s ‘Dangerous House’ is tautly written, skilled storytelling

Everything about “Dangerous House” is clean, straightforward and uncluttered. Playwright Silverman neither preaches nor condescends.

Dangerous House
By Jen Silverman
Directed by Saheem Ali

Williamstown Theatre Festival’s Nikos Stage ends its season fulfilling its promise—and then some—to showcase the best of America’s young playwrights with Jen Silverman’s tautly written, arresting “Dangerous House.” In Silverman’s hands, interpersonal conflict illuminates broader issues of our times. Silverman doesn’t write story pasted on to theme: Theme comes from story. Her storytelling is that skilled, that fundamental and that good.

In “Dangerous Minds,” Noxolo, an aspiring, lesbian footballer from Cape Town, has moved to London to start a new life after leaving behind her ex-lover, outspoken, LGBT activist Pretty. When Pretty goes missing, Noxolo returns to Cape Town where she confronts the painful truth about Pretty and a society which, despite being the only African country to allow same-sex marriages, is mired in aggressive sexism and homophobia. Most harrowing, about which “Dangerous House” tells, is a practice called “corrective rape,” where sexual assault is believed  to “cure” homosexuality.

Saheem Ali’s no-nonsense direction corresponds exactly to Silverman’s tightly organized storytelling. Dane Laffrey’s scenic design is appropriately unpretentious.

Atandwa Kani as Sicelo and Michael Braun as Gregory in the Williamstown Theatre Festival production of ‘Dangerous House.’ Photo: Carolyn Brown

The casting is precise—there’s not one miss among the five actors. Alfie Fuller demonstrates incredible versatility as Noxolo. (I never would have guessed she was the same actor who played the office manager in “Artney Jackson” last month on the same stage.) Samira Wiley, Emmy Award-nominated for her role in the series “The Handmaid’s Tale,” hones in perfectly on Pretty’s wise-ass spunk. Atandwa Kani, the only South African in the cast, is superb in the most difficult role as Noxolo’s brother, Sicelo, both defender of and conspirator against his sister. Michael Braun plays Gregory, an American reporter all too comfortable with getting a story no matter what. Philip James Brannon as Noxolo’s London boss and friend nails a brief, riveting monologue about surviving hate crime.

Special kudos to dialect coach Barbara Rubin who sets right the cast’s South African accents, one of the most difficult for American actors to negotiate.

Everything about “Dangerous House” is clean, straightforward and uncluttered. Playwright Silverman neither preaches nor condescends. She lets us, the audience, connect the dots to the world outside the theater all by ourselves. We need more storytelling on stage like this.

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Dangerous House plays on the Nikos Stage at the ’62 Center for Theater and Dance at Williams College, 1000 Main St., Williamstown, Massachusetts, through Sunday, Aug. 19. For information and tickets, see the Berkshire Edge calendar, go to wtfestival.org or call the box office at (413) 458-3253.

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