Review of Dark Matters at West End Players Guild

    Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s Dark Matters is probably best known for its paranormal elements. I will remember it for family dynamics that were compellingly depicted in the recent staging by the West End Players Guild.

    Bridget Cleary goes missing at the start of the play. Six months earlier, the Cleary family had moved from the District of Columbia to the mountains of Virginia, where there is less nocturnal light to interfere with Bridget’s stargazing. She has been writing a book about people who have encountered extraterrestrials. The family did not think she was a believer in aliens from space, but her son, Jeremy, finds documents suggesting otherwise after her disappearance.

    Sheriff Egan conducts the search for the missing Bridget. He has to consider new possibilities after learning of a D.C. police report of Michael’s striking Bridget. Michael swears the incident was a one off and that he had nothing to do with Bridget’s disappearance. Jeremy has shown signs of having secretly indulged in alcohol or perhaps something stronger.

    When Bridget returns home, she tells Michael and Jeremy of an encounter with aliens that puts the family at risk. She calls on them to act on something that defies belief. How can the family members trust one another after each one has violated a trust?

    What I found most interesting and moving about the play was not the cause of the family crisis but the interaction during the crisis. The growing stress on the Clearys was chillingly portrayed in shrewdly gauged, harrowing performances by Suki Peters as Bridget, Joseph Garner as Michael, and Cory Burke as Jeremy. Ben Ritchie, in contrast, was appropriately self-possessed as Sheriff Egan.

    The play concludes with a puzzling monologue. I can see why Aguirre-Sacasa would want to avoid resolving all the ambiguity, but I would have preferred an ending with more clarity.

    —Gerry Kowarsky

    On the couch from the left: Cory Burke as Jeremy Cleary and Suki Peters as Bridget Cleary.
    At the table from the left: Joseph Garner as Michael Cleary and Ben Ritchie as Sheriff Egan.