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Saturday, August 25, 2018

We all scream for "Screamers."

Molly Lieber in Screamers,
a film by Brian Rogers, screening now at Abrons Arts Center
(photo: Brian Rogers)

More squirmer than screamer, Screamers--a feature film written and directed by Brian Rogers of The Chocolate Factory Theater--situates a vulnerable woman (Molly Lieber) inside a deconsecrated Catholic church that will now be her home in a small town where, we're told, "there's little to see and even less to do." You might as well ignore the dreary man moving into it with her (Andrew Dinwiddie) because this is Lieber's film. She is the dark matter at the center, the magnetic force, and she is magnificent in her role--visually, symbolically, emotionally. Everyone else seems like hallucinatory debris in orbit--from the smirky, smarmy priest (Jay Wegman) who used to celebrate mass there to the annoyingly inaudible handyman (Jon Kinzel) who leaves an oily black smear on Lieber's lips. And what's with the scenes of a hulking Jim Finlay punching out a hooded captive?

I appreciated the framing of Lieber by her haunted visual environment, but the sonic environment most captured my attention and imagination. Aside from Lieber, the stars of this show are the crisp sounds--everything from a creaking stained glass window to couch cushions that complain when compressed and released--amplified to an unnatural degree. Sounds with heft, with personality. It is as if we all had taken drugs, and the noises ordinary things make--usually in the background of awareness--are now sharing stories and opinions.

Rogers spent time alone in artistic residency at puppeteer Dan Hurlin's upstate house, a deconsecrated church, an experience that, he says, worked some strange changes. So Screamers and probably Lieber's character, to a degree I won't speculate about, contains a fair amount of Rogers. But, for me always, any American ghost story raises useful parallels to those ghastly ghosts of American history we try to avoid and which now are popping up all over the place.

Starring: Andrew Dinwiddie, Jim Findlay, Daniel Fish, Vallejo Gantner, Keely Garfield, Jon Kinzel, Quinn Larson, Molly Lieber, Jay Wegman

Writer/Director/Editor: Brian Rogers
Producer: Madeline Best
Director of Photography: Jeff Larson
Production design: Sara C. Walsh
Lighting: Jon Harper
Location Sound: Stephen Bruckert
Dramaturgy and Directorial Consultation: Madeline Best
Music by Brian Roger
Sound Design, Mix and Mastering: Jim Dawson
2nd Unit Director of Photography: Stephen Bruckert
Assistant Production Design: Jessie Bonaventura
Production Assistants: Youree Choi, Ben Demarest, Jonathan Ginter, Kenneth Olguin, Nicole Simonson

Catch the last screening of Screamers tonight at 7pm at The Playhouse at Abrons Arts Center (466 Grand Street, near Pitt Street, Manhattan). Click here for details, ticket information and directions.

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