Electrifying SWITZERLAND Defies Convention and Ventures into the Macabre

Art can be similar to nightmares. In both, the seemingly boundless troubled figures of imagination appear to threaten our very livelihoods by demanding autonomy. Theatre in the Park’s production of Joanna Murray-Smith’s play Switzerland – directed and starring Lynda Clark – thrillingly explores this parallelism by dramatizing the life of mystery author Patricia Highsmith.

Clark plays the elderly Highsmith, isolated in her Swiss chalet amid her collections of typewriters and antique weapons. Her Highsmith is irascible and fiery, eloquently delivering blow after blow of deprecatory remarks while guzzling alcohol with seemingly no inebriating effect. Her punchy vitality showcases Highsmith’s acerbic wit and infamous temper. Her counterpart, Edward Ridgeway – played by Ira David Wood IV – cuts quite a different guise. He is a publishing company rep who has come to persuade Highsmith into signing one final book deal. Wood’s Ridgeway is smooth, calculating, and measured – if not a bit overstated sometimes – but he still manages to establish the necessary tone to counter Clark’s verve and pulls off the play’s later scenes with nothing short of virtuosity.

Switzerland reveals itself slowly and is wracked with electrifying tension as it unexpectedly barrels towards the surreal and macabre. The set itself palpates with this electricity, which is a credit to the ingenuity of the production’s designers. Gabriel Esparza’s lighting accentuates some of the key themes of the play – identity confusion, the blurred lines between artist and creation, the questionability of reality itself. Admirers of mystery stories like those of Agatha Christie or G. K. Chesterton might leave Switzerland feeling a bit cheated. Here, classic murder conventions are discarded, leaving instead a heady, introspective drama that transgresses formulaic clichés and feels far more rewarding. “Killers transgress.”

Switzerland runs through August 15. For more information visit https://www.theatreinthepark.com/.

For a complete listing of Triangle theatrical events, visit: https://beltlinetobroadway.org/events/.

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