Performing Arts: Theater
June 26, 2022
Unlike in the Bible at HERE Arts Center Lot’s wife has a name: Edith. Played by Cynthia Bastidas, she is centered in Don’t Look Back, Adam Kraar’s modern retelling of the biblical story. The play begins with Edith, Lot, and their two daughters—Annie and Molly—fleeing the impending destruction of Sodom.

The ceiling of the HERE’s black box is a square of tightly stretched fabric. Across it stars are projected, along with churning clouds, and mysterious divine lights that drift above the plain the family is forbidden to look back upon. The costumes by Peri Grabin Leong are excellent, delivering that vaguely modern timeless style that always seems at home in a black box.

Lina Silver, who plays Molly, is a compelling actor, playing below her age effectively to round out the archetypal family: Lot the pious father, Edith the doubting mother, Annie the rebellious teen, and Molly the innocent child.

The sisters’ scene together elucidates the dynamic relationship the actors have brought to the roles and shines in the script as one of the places where comedy and drama meld seamlessly. Elsewhere, the style flips back and forth, sometimes bawdy, course, and funny, others dark and sometimes disturbing.

When Annie recounts a vision of the destruction of Sodom including “children without faces, only clicking teeth” the play is deliciously chilling, like a horror movie. But when Lot, played by Jeff Rubino, forces his family to their knees and commands them to pray in a booming voice and strikes Edith across the face when she refuses to comply, the grimness of domestic violence strikes an entirely different note.

When the play reaches its peak the sky and stage turn red as the family struggles across the stage through the storm that is obliterating Sodom. Edith monologues: her rough timbre is rightly full of pain and anger at the total destruction of the only city she has ever known. The city where she raised her children and found moments of joy and pleasure. She turns to take one last look at her city, and chooses to be judged along with its inhabitants.

Years later, when Annie and Molly visit their mother—now a frozen pillar of salt, wrapped in pale knit fabrics—they tell her about their lives and, in a private moment, Annie asks for advice: should she elope with her lover? Edith shockingly breaks her stillness and nods gently. Such gentle moments shine bright throughout the evening, resulting in a play that seems at once classic and fresh.

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