Eerie humor

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In my feature on Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, I draw comparisons between it and Steven Millhauser's new short story collection, Dangerous Laughter. There seems to be a wonderful symbiosis between the gothic stage antics of 1927 (the name of the theater company) and Millhauser's charming and surreal narratives around which looms the specter, as he says in one story, of "terrible knowledge." In particular, they both seem to explore the comedic, and sometimes emotional, charge peculiar to the nature of representation. Sometimes it's moving and funny; sometimes it's moving and disturbing.

In exploring what's real and representations of what's real, 1927 keeps audiences from coming to solid conclusions about the constructed universe they are seeing. As long as it's imaginary, it's all right to laugh. But what happens when it doesn't seem imaginary anymore? What then?

Suzanne Andrade [director of the show] says audiences feel safe when the action is happening

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on a screen. She suggests there's security in the knowledge that our experience is merely an illusion. But when that knowledge comes into doubt, as when characters "step out" of movie screens, or when characters erase each other with red handkerchiefs, that insecurity can be unsettling — funny but also disturbing.

"There's something eerie about it," Andrade says, of piercing the veil of illusion. "For us, there's an opportunity for something clever and tricksy."

I can't wait to see this on Saturday.

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