Sunday, December 6, 2015

ANIMALS OUT OF PAPER • R-S Theatrics

Playwright Rajiv Joseph’s 2008 drama places a delicate art at its center. Origami, with its precise execution of intricate folds, makes a fitting prism to look through at three people, suffering through fragile times, who hold the art dear -- whether through hard work or natural ability, and as a method of creativity, or escape.

When Ilana (Teresa Doggett) hesitantly opens the door to let in Andy (Andrew Kuhlman), he’s soaking wet from the pouring rain outside, and a little starstruck and giddy, meeting a fellow origami artist -- and Ilana is one of the best. But because of her two month old divorce and her beloved dog running off, she’s in no mood for company, and hasn’t felt any passion for folding paper in awhile, though her studio where she now lives is cluttered with all kinds of paper -- origami paper, newspapers, and Chinese takeout boxes. Andy, a high school calculus teacher, is there on official business as the treasurer for the American Origami organization. He’s the kind of guy who literally counts his blessings, writing them down in a little notebook with listings that now number up to the thousands. Ilana’s in there more than a couple of times, which she discovers when Andy leaves his book behind and Ilana takes it up as her latest reading material.

Ilana (Teresa Doggett) and Andy (Andrew Kuhlman).
Photo credit: Michael Young
Andy, though he’s embarrassed and now in a position where his origami crush knows just about everything about him, urges her to advise a student of his, Suresh (Ethan Isaac), a brilliant and promising student of origami, but also a posturing, brawling teenager with his own troubles -- hinted at through bits of cell phone conversations with his father, recently widowed, assuring him that he’ll home soon. The timid sparks that develop between Ilana and Andy shift when she invites Suresh to an origami convention in Nagasaki instead of Andy, and the under-the-surface volatility between the three come out in funny and shatterable ways.

Ilana (Teresa Doggett) and Suresh (Ethan Isaac).
Photo credit: Michael Young
Todd Schaefer’s keen direction of the dynamics onstage makes the most of each setting, only slightly undermined by a couple of lengthy scene changes. Doggett as Ilana, leery and bare at the start, makes you want to cheer her on as she slowly makes her way to pursuing her passion again, with a couple of potential love interests. Kuhlman’s awkward but lovable Andy is sweetly innocent in the face of heartbreak, and Isaac, though initially covered in a veneer of teenage bravado and isolation with his iPod never far, eventually makes a rewarding turn.

In R-S Theatrics’ season closer, the story, like origami, is seemingly simple, but shrewdly complex. Only one more chance to check it out at The Chapel.


ANIMALS OUT OF PAPER

Written by Rajiv Joseph
Directed by Todd Schaefer
The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive
through December 6 | tickets: $18 - $20
Performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 7pm

Cast
Ilana: Teresa Doggett
Andy: Andrew Kuhlman
Suresh: Ethan Isaac

Creative
Stage Manager: Sean Michael
Assistant Stage Manager: Sophia Gotto
Assistant Stage Manager: Nick Raghebi
Scenic Designer: Keller Ryan
Lighting Designer: Nathan Schroeder
Costume Designer: Ruth Schmalenberger
Sound Designer: Mark Kelley
Properties Master: Heather Tucker
Production Manager: Christina Rios
Artistic Director: Christina Rios
Managing Director: Heather Tucker
Associate Managing Director: Elizabeth Van Pelt

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