"How do you write about Crave?" director Roger Benington asked. "How do you talk about it?"

It's a difficult question—you can't talk about the play without making it sound awful. It is arguably the most linguistically complex work by British playwright-suicide Sarah Kane, who once said she thought of it "more as text performance than as a play." It's experiential rather than objective, with four characters—identified only by letters—speaking in rhythmic, poetic, and fragmented language. Often called her "chamber piece," Crave is usually performed by actors sitting in chairs throughout the performance, forcing the audience to focus on the play's highly impressionistic text. Sounds like wanky art torture, doesn't it? But done well, it's mesmerizing.

The Washington Ensemble Theatre asked Benington (who was born in South Africa, studied at Julliard, and now runs a theater company in Salt Lake City) to direct Crave. He had directed an earlier production with the traditional chair aesthetic: "I treated the actors like they were an orchestra, and had them sit in Louis XIV chairs made of Plexiglass."

This time around, Benington said he wanted to direct a more physical production, exploiting the WET ensemble's physical training at the UW. He gave two other intriguing hints about the production: Every seat in the theater has a restricted view, and a body of water will accumulate throughout the show, but will be hidden from the audience. "You might see some of it when the physical action builds," he said.

Widely savaged by the British press (theater critic Jack Tinker famously called her first play "a disgusting feast of filth"), Kane originally wrote Crave under a pseudonym, forgoing the onstage rape, cannibalism, and sledgehammer brutality of her earlier work for more linguistic delicacy, but no less urgency or alarm.

"It's a play that allows the audience to move around inside it," Benington said. If it's done right, it puts the audience in a kind of trance. BRENDAN KILEY

ConWorks’ Adolescence

On Tuesday, September 6, the board of Consolidated Works named Corey Pearlstein the new artistic director of the multidisciplinary art center. Pearlstein was most recently the producing artistic director of the Theatre Outlet in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He replaces ConWorks' founding artistic director Matthew Richter, ousted by ConWorks' board in February 2005 for reasons that are still unclear.

This week's announcement is the first sign in seven months that the board is serious about ConWorks' future. According to a press release, "Corey has demonstrated a strong balance of artistic and administrative know-how and he's an ideal artistic director for ConWorks as the organization grows from its youth into its adolescence," says board president Robb Krieg, who could not immediately be reached for further comment. Pearlstein could not be reached either.

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The board came under harsh criticism last February for their handling of Richter's dismissal. No one on the board has experience running an arts organization.

Pearlstein's first day is September 26.