Written and directed by Natalie Parks, EGO/DEATH is a fictional but deeply personal story about Ruth, a young individual who dies shortly after their college graduation, then is inexplicably resurrected and brought back one year later. From there, the show uses its absurd premise to paint a strikingly genuine portrait of mental health, relationships, and all of the other things that come with being a person on this crazy planet.
Parks stars as Ruth in a delightfully frenetic and nuanced performance, made all the more impressive by the fact that they never really move from their position atop a stool center stage. Instead, backstory and plot unfold through frankly brilliant writing and staging, where Ruthie’s personal monologue and cleverly devised dialogue, in which Ruth holds whole conversations with people who never appear onstage, reveal what’s really happening.
These characters, like Ruth’s therapist (Alicia Lion Januzzi) or on-and-off girlfriend (Kara Vecchione), come only as disembodied voices (Calista Izzi-Ragland, Phil Matos, and Charlotte Kim make up the others), working well together with expertly planned light cues (Jane Wilde), so that the show can then dip and dive in and out of Ruthie’s post-resurrection present and their past. Still, the play never loses its train of thought, even while giving us a very intimate window into Ruthie’s anxious inner stream of consciousness.
As with most productions, there are a few kinks that could be ironed out. The voice acting sometimes waffles between feeling both forced and low stakes. Light and sound cues are occasionally a hair off, and the script could use the tiniest bit of polishing. But, on the whole, the play is deeply resonant, and I urge you not to miss seeing how Parks and their team take on topics like mental health, identity, and life to such avail, using very little. EGO/DEATH is an extremely minimalist production, and extraordinarily moving because of how this underscores its honesty. Some light cues, a solid script, and one stool are all Park needs to be vulnerable, to make their argument — and to let us know that in the DC theatre scene, they are surely one to watch.
Running Time: 60 minutes, no intermission.
EGO/DEATH plays two more times — July 21, 2022, at 8:15 pm and July 22 at 9:30 pm — at HOME RULE – Formerly Washington Sports Club, 3270 M St. NW, Washington, DC. To see the performance schedule and purchase tickets ($15), go online.
COVID Safety: The audience is to remain masked for the show. The mask needs to cover your mouth and nose the whole time. Proof of vaccination and ID are checked before entry.
Age appropriateness: Appropriate for Adults Only