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Bowie Community Theatre’s Language of Angels

You may be done with the past, but the past is never done with you.
—Magnolia (1999)

That aphorism sums up the point and the effect of Bowie Community Theatre’s ambitious Language of Angels.
    Whether they are angels, ghosts or memories, voices from our past accompany, haunt and speak to us throughout our lives. They rarely speak in a linear or logical way, and often we aren’t sure of their message.
    Playwright Naomi Iizuka sets Language of Angels in a string of North Carolina caves frequented by teens. Tragedies have happened there, and the people involved relive and remember the events that led up to and followed after those tragedies.
    Director and set designer Terry Averill has created a foreboding, shadowy world of caves of memory, uncertainty and loss.  The theater is nearly dark when the audience enters, and hanging scrims evoke spider webs and dankness. We seem to be entering the caves, and the design is very, very effective.
    The script of the 90-minute show consists primarily of monologues. Action flows backwards and forwards in time, and it would take several viewings to understand exactly what transpires in the caves. However, if you are willing to forgo the details, the bigger picture of how loss affects us can make for a viscerally satisfying evening of thoughtful theater.
    In addition to the spooky look of the set, Garrett Hyde provides lighting and sound effects that sustain the unworldly feel.
    Unfortunately there is one huge design mistake: A light is directed at the audience throughout the show. Perhaps it is meant as a metaphorical going into the light; perhaps it is meant to evoke a miner’s headlamp. The result, however, is blinding and headache inducing. I moved several times but failed to find a seat out of the throw of the light.  Occasionally the light would dim to a bearable, even interesting, effect.
    Kaeti Bradley as Danielle, Justin Truesdale as Billy, Dan Alagna as JB, Chris Schenck as Michael, Bridget Arvidson as Allison, Ben Brunnschweiler as Seth, Shanice Jones as Cellie, Samantha Alagna as Kendra and Gary Small as Cellie’s shadow carry their roles and are very balanced as an ensemble. Language of Angels would be better served, however, if director Averill encouraged them to mix up the rhythms and tonality of their monologues.
    Language of Angels is an ambitious, if not completely successful, production. However, the attempt itself is worthy and the challenge is appreciated. Leaving a theater uncertain of what you have seen is a good thing when it brings on reflection and consideration, as this show does.

Showing thru August 6 at 8pm FSa; 2pm Su at Bowie Playhouse, White Marsh Park, 16500 White Marsh Park Dr., Bowie. $18; rsvp: 301-805-0219; www.BCTheatre.com.