Specific Gravity’s provocative, unsettling ‘Lullaby’

The Most Beautiful Lullaby You’ve Ever Heard
Starring Julia Leist, Jennifer Poliskie and Christopher Shiner. Written by Greg Romero. Directed by Rand Harmon. Presented by Specific Gravity Ensemble through Sept. 30. For tickets or more info, call 384-2743 or visit www.specificgravityensemble.com.

Earlier this year, the acclaimed “Elevator Plays” heralded Specific Gravity Ensemble’s arrival on the Louisville theater scene and marked the company as one striving to put theater in unexpected places. But theater must engage viewers through characters and dialogue, and the ambiance created through costumes, sets and lighting.

Specific Gravity succeeds with its current production, “The Most Beautiful Lullaby You’ve Ever Heard,” which opened last weekend in a small room off the main gallery at 21c Museum Hotel, a befitting setting for this intimate story. The play by Philadelphia-based playwright Greg Romero deftly reveals a disconcerting relationship between a man (Christopher Shiner) and a women (Jennifer Poliskie), through snippets of dialogue that take place interchangeably on a coastline, in a bar, in an apartment, on a park bench and in other venues.

In the bar their conversation illustrates a twisted emotional dependence between the two.

MAN: I wouldn’t mind if you broke a bottle over my head.
WOMAN: Are you asking me to?
MAN: I don’t know. I just know that I wouldn’t mind. It would just be another way to be with you.
So go many of the scenes here, in which the man and the women, dressed in white and sitting on chairs facing the audience, reveal their often perverse attitudes about one another, about sex and about other events from their past. At work is an unsettling power play over who is stronger.

Shiner is captivating, revealing a naïve man who masks the brutal underpinnings of his personality. Poliskie’s woman is spiked with anger and a forged courage meant to shield her from harm.

Todd Picket’s lighting design for the play, which City Attic Theatre premiered in June in New York, feeds the intimacy by bathing the stage in violet, pink, orange, blue and green for various scenes. The overall effect is mesmerizing and marks an exciting theatrical exercise by director Rand Harmon.