Daniel Therriault’s three-character stage work is as much a multidimensional rap symphony as it is a play. Though overly long and at times maddeningly redundant, “Battery” still is a tantalizing oral collage, full of rich illusion and sensual metaphor. Director Jack Cogreve hasn’t found a way to minimize the playwright’s excesses, but he has done an excellent job of guiding a talented ensemble along the twisting thought line of Therriault’s text.
In the cavelike environs of a small electronics workshop, master electrician Rip (Patrick W. Day) completely manipulates the lives of his manic-depressive apprentice Stan (Chad Gabriel) and his street-wise but adoring girlfriend Brandy (Kathryne Dora Brown). Overwhelming the subservient pair with a never-ending bombardment of abusive posturing and philosophical ranting, Rip is a hip-hop Svengali whose obsessive desire to remake Stan in his own image eventually leads to his own downfall and the deliverance of Stan and Brandy.
Day offers a preening, bantam cock presence as Ray and is completely at ease with the mercurial, poetic flow of Therriault’s dialogue. His jarring description of mastering a high-performance engine as a metaphor for picking up and seducing a woman is ariveting, hypnotically vulgar highlight of the first act. Later, in the second act, Day allows Rip to believably disintegrate into a poignantly sad shell of his former self as he watches his creations evolve beyond Rip’s limited perception of reality.
Gabriel does an excellent job of absorbing the onstage energy emanating from Day, performing with a relaxed awareness that always appears to be evaluating his own actions.
Completing the trio of totally integrated performances, Brown exudes confident sensuality, yet believably transmits the aura of Brandy being totally dependent upon Rip for her validation as a human being.
The set design of Chad Bell and Todd “Onyx” Seller makes good use of the Black Whole Theatre’s deep but minuscule stage space. It gives the impression that one is entering a dungeon that can only be escaped through supreme effort. The lighting, unfortunately, has all the subtlety of a bare light bulb being turned on and off.