Ellen’s apartment has seen better days. Ostensibly an East Village one-bedroom (though Andromache Chalfant’s set shows only a bathroom and kitchen), it has flaws not even the most mendacious of real estate agents could euphemize: a gaping hole in the ceiling, bloodstains on the walls, plywood in place of window panes, a corpse in the corner. Actually, the environs of Through the Yellow Hour look only slightly worse than in the average Adam Rapp play, though few of those pieces feature an army of corporate-sponsored fundamentalist terrorists who have blown most major urban centers to rubble.
Writer-director Rapp has experimented with futurist dystopias before, most recently in the Hallway Trilogy, which debuted at Rattlestick a year ago. Hani Furstenberg plays Ellen, a thirtyish pediatric nurse abandoned by the husband who went to find food during a ceasefire. As she huddles in her apartment with a ready supply of pharmaceuticals, canned peaches, and handgun bullets, a string of guests arrive as if in a 1920s farce, but few farceurs are as covered in blood or bent on homicide.
Yellow Hour exploits strategies and themes familiar from Hallway and other works. Rapp practices a particularly violent form of romanticism, as silly as it is compelling. His favorite subjects: innocence and its loss, as well of the interplay of desire, necessity, and ethical behavior in harsh environments. If you have some comfort with female nudity and have sat through at least one Sarah Kane play, there’s little here to shock, but plenty to provide welcome shudders and less-welcome eye-rolling.
This is a play about how we endure when the worst comes and how we surprise ourselves with our capacity for brutality and for love. It’s also a play about living in cramped quarters with noisy neighbors, unresponsive landlords, and the occasional rat. My god! That dystopian future may be here already.