Review: Trap Door Crafts Alas, a Stunningly Theatrical Video Montage

Malcolm McCarthy Herrera, Keith Surney and Ann Sonneville. All images courtesy Trap Door Theatre.

It may be theater…or perhaps film. But it’s not exactly a play. It’s a surreal symphony of exotic makeup and dynamic video editing with original music and voices that speak of hunger, disease, loss of freedom and control. Trap Door Theatre, always an adventurous company, has entered the pandemic’s virtual world with a short-form visual poem based on a monologue—a fragment of a work by Matei Visniec, the Romanian-French writer. The monologue, Alas, is translated by Daniela Șilindean and directed by company member Michael Mejia, also the video editor, composer and sound designer.

Visniec’s complete work is titled Cabaret of Words, a series of sketches or prose poems. The Alas script or monologue is made up of fragments, phrases and words (plus occasional gunfire)  that create an aural experience layered on top of the spectacular visual effects created by Mejia and an international cast. The 16 performers are from 10 countries and include several Trap Door ensemble members. The work is performed in English infused with Afrikaans, Catalan, Italian and Spanish.

Malcolm McCarthy Herrera.

Alas runs 20 minutes and is difficult to characterize as theater, so this is not a typical theater review. I am assigning it a significant star rating, however, because it is a work of theater artistry. I recommend you see it because you will not see many other virtual productions that use their medium so beautifully. Think of Alas as Zoom on a mind-altering drug.

This is Mejia’s directorial debut—we have seen them perform in several Trap plays including Lipstick Lobotomy and The Killer. Mejia also gets credit for the sophisticated video editing and original music. After viewing this small gem a few times, I’m eager to see Mejia direct a full-length production. I will also add that it would be fascinating to see Trap Door perform Alas, or Visniec’s full work, Cabaret of Words, on stage in a live production some time in the future. It would be vastly different than this production, which could not easily be reproduced by live actors on stage.

Neema Lahon.

The Alas performers are Jenny Beacraft, Anarosa Butler, Carl Chambers, Dermot Flanagan, Aida Llop, Emily Lotspeich, Leslie Lund, Malcolm McCarthy Herrera, Robin Minkens, Emily Nichelson, Cristina Pronzati, Ann Sonneville, Venice Averyheart, Neema Lahon, Irvine van der Merwe and Keith Surney.

Costumes and makeup are done by individual cast members.

Born in Romania, Visniec lives in Paris and writes primarily in French. Among his other works are How to Explain the History of Communism to Mental Patients, and Occidental Express, both staged by Trap Door.

Tickets for Alas are pay-what-you-can, with a suggested donation of $10. After purchasing a ticket, you will receive a link to Alas, which you can view at any time through September 24.

Nancy S Bishop
Nancy S Bishop

Nancy S. Bishop is publisher and Stages editor of Third Coast Review. She’s a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and a 2014 Fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. You can read her personal writing on pop culture at, and follow her on Twitter @nsbishop. She also writes about film, books, art, architecture and design.

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