Rabbit Hole Ensemble and Obie Award–winning playwright Neal Bell prove a potent combination in Shadow of Himself, a new interpretation of the original—and still greatest—bromance. The Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest known works of literature, traces the passionate, though presumably platonic, relationship between the haughty, domineering king and Enkidu, a half-feral intruder whom Gilgamesh befriends and ultimately brings with him on a doomed quest. Rabbit Hole’s highly physical, expressive style, executed with minimal tech, benefits from Bell’s muscular language, and the result feels urgent and riveting under Edward Elefterion’s fast-paced direction. The script crackles with contemporary verbiage, copious F-bombs, and references to Vietnam and Anderson Cooper’s sexuality. But at the same time, it conjures a surprising degree of primitive poetry, eliciting the magic and terror of a still-animistic world only recently emerged into the light of civilization.
The almost complete lack of props or costumes allows the actors to endow their characters with a mythic, a-temporal aura. Matt W. Cody, as “Gil”, flexes his noble prom-king brow with amusing contempt as he asserts sexual rights over his angry female subjects, but he really begins to shine as the tragedy and pathos of the journey deepens. Mark Cajigao brings shaggy unpredictability to his role as the regretfully human “NK.” Daniel AJL Kitrosser and Adam Swiderski are lovable comic relief as loyal soldiers of the kingdom, though their sadistic/tender routine eventually becomes somewhat tiring—who really needs their insecure homophobia in a play as fraught with subtle themes of masculinity and eroticism as this one? Emily Hartford is sometimes less convincing in her multiple roles: Mother or whore, she always seems the same. Bottom line, though, Shadow should not to be missed in the final two days of its run.