|Christine Marie Brown and John Q. Smith; Photo: MR Toomey Photography|
The talented cast handles challenging language with virtuosity. Words spill out, racing and overlapping; silences leap out like shadow monsters; words wound, deceive, overpower, and console. Innocuous phrases take on stunning power: "He's fine!" -- "You've been seen" -- "You're not real." To some degree, it's a play about words: their surfaces and their subtexts; their power to define or obscure reality, create or thwart community; to kill or to care.
"Downstairs" is a play for our time, when facing down demons and holding onto simple truths may be our only path toward imperfect but necessary salvation. It's an experience not to be lightly undergone or easily forgotten.