Christopher John Falcioni ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Stage Editor
Ryan Landry’s M is a theatrical experience begging to be talked and argue about and it doesn’t hide that fact at all. Note first and foremost that this is Ryan Landry’s M rather than a strict adaptation of the Fritz Lang black-and-white classic… and don’t worry, I had not heard of it either. Landry, famous for his Gold Dust Orphans, a troupe famous for parodies like Peter Pansy and Mildred Fierce, is incredibly respectful of its source material while often simultaneously bastardizing it. The original M, a murder mystery centered on serial child murders, is poked at (the cuckoo clock featured in long shots of Landry’s film is turned into a character), questioned (why DOESN’T the mother ever come down the stairs), and bent (the titular murderer is now a woman playing a man), all with great respect. After watching a 15-minute clip of the movie’s opening, you’ll have an idea of how smart – and strange – the show really is.
And after about 15 minutes into play, things start to unravel. When an audience member gets so excited that he tries to solve the murders himself and comes onto the stage, things go awry. The story spins out of control, the playwright goes missing and a romance blooms, all while the movie’s plot shines through, even if in a twisted sort of way. We are taken to an interesting meta-theater place almost instantly and go deeper and deeper into it until we are so deep, it’s a miracle that we even come back to child murders by the end of the piece.
Yes, it’s weird. It’s contemporary. And it plays better when you enter expecting to see a thriller-romantic comedy-meta theater-parody trying to pigeonhole the style. And I personally loved it. None of this means that we cannot take these characters seriously, nor does it mean that child murder is turned into a laughing matter. In fact, Ryan Landry’s writing does an incredible job of tricking your mouth to open wide, laughing – then pouring the cold truth down into your throat, leaving you with a distinct aftertaste while you leave the theater. Love it or hate it, you’ll leave the show talking. And that’s exactly what Landry wants. I think.
The Huntington Theatre Company’s production of Ryan Landry’s M is running now through April 28 at the South End/Calderwood Pavilion an the BCA. Visit huntingtontheatre.org for more information.