|Jens Rasmussen and Georgia Cohen|
Ms. Collier, who is Australian-born and New York-based, has created six vivid, droll characters. In Terra Nova Collective’s polished production of “Underland” at 59E59 Theaters, Mia Rovegno has directed six assertive, beautifully delineated performances. The meaning of the play, however, is swathed in enough metaphor to suffocate Samuel Beckett.
Some motives are obvious. The tunnel diggers, Violet and Ruth (Angeliea Stark and Kiley Lotz), seek escape, sometimes through drugs. Taka (Daniel K. Isaac), the Japanese visitor, just wants to go home, as soon as someone brings him a glass of water, please. His Tamagotchi pet dies.
The teachers are less transparent. Miss Harmony (Georgia Cohen) is new in town, and no one can figure out why she’s there. Mr. B (Jens Rasmussen), whose instructional style suggests Marine boot camp, is also literally a killer. There are sightings in town of a real crocodile, but maybe it’s just Mr. B after his nighttime transformation.
Mrs. Butterfat (a very funny Annie Golden), though, appears to be the theme-speaker, while talking to her dead husband, Glen. “Crocs. They’re just down there, waiting,” she says. She dismisses a divine-retribution explanation of why so many locals are dying: “It’s not God; it’s the land. It’ll swallow you whole.” Aha! Living in a horrible place can eat your soul.