The Sting in the Dark Tower by Peter Gruenbaum

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The Sting in the Dark Tower by Peter Gruenbaum, inspired by a story attributed to C. S. Lewis. Dir. Gruenbaum. Perf. Walker Caplan, Carol Sage Silverstein, John Ruoff. Coiled Stories, 2015. Download from

Based on an unfinished work by C. S. Lewis, "The Sting in the Dark Tower" has distinct echoes of H. G. Wells's more illustrious novel "The Time Machine." A bratty teen (Walker Caplan) and her elderly nanny (Carol Sage Silverstein) become involve in a complicated plot involving a chronoscope, that can penetrate the mysteries of time. The chronoscope shows images of a dark tower ruled by men with stingers on their foreheads. By some quirk of fate, an accident leads to people's minds being exchanged: the dark tower inhabitants acquire earthly minds and vice versa.

As with many time-travel narratives, Gruenbaum's play uses the source-text to explore issues of identity: what does it mean to be human, possessed of the power to make informed judgments; and how does that differ from other forms of intelligence? Although set in the Victorian era, the play makes explicit contrasts between past and present, and thereby invites us to reflect on important issues such as gender construction and the relationship between different generations. The Victorian era might have created the world of Empire on which the sun never sets, but it was also a highly repressive world.

Sometimes the action becomes a little bogged down in nationalistic stereotypes: the idea of people eating fish and chips sounded just a little too British to me. But this is just a minor cavil in a production making intelligent use of a variety of sonic resources to create an imaginative world at once different from yet uncomfortably similar to the worlds we inhabit.