By Daniel O.W. Smith
Published July 18, 2016
The Ties That Bind is a spare one-man show that explores the intricacies, dead ends, and hairpin turns contained in one disturbed mind.
For a set that consists only of a coffee table, metal frame chair, and a box of tissues, with exactly one cast member who speaks without interruption for almost the entire duration, it's hard to imagine this show lasting a full 80 minutes. Thankfully, the momentum never lets up.
Lead James Ince takes us into the head of Sam Ward, an unemployed loner who alternately berates, pleads with, and seems to forget the audience while rambling through the tale of his life. His mind wracked by years of homophobic taunts, a pointless job, and the insanity of the everyday.
It's obvious from the start that Sam has cracked. Less clear is what landed him in his current situation. The jolting, bumpy ride is helped along by creative lighting which, at choice moments, creates an appropriately terrifying effect.
Ince's portrayal of mental illness is eminently believable, to the point that it's sometimes scary. While largely dark and frenzied, there's enough humor and emotional tenderness here to keep some hope alive for Sam.
And there's a hint of mystery, kept up through the notion that everything means something, that the apparently aimless ramblings of the insane are in fact a highly coded sanity, clear enough to those who are willing to pay attention.
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