Saturday, December 23, 2017

REMNANT • Mustard Seed Theatre

Mustard Seed open its 11th season with a revival of the theatre’s debut production, Ron Reed’s Remnant. It’s a post-apocalyptic Christmas story that takes place 75 years after a catastrophic plague has forced civilization to hit the restart button. Even the language is in tatters. The vestiges of families that remain fortify as clans, and arm themselves with weapons and guard dogs. Bikers are good to trade with, but not much else, and loners are to be avoided at all costs. Mustard Seed’s production explores the core Holiday sentiment through the eyes of the Wilkin clan, who have decided to celebrate “Christ Mass” for the first time in memory.

Kristn Taler (Michelle Hand),
Barlow Sho’r (Ryan Lawson-Maeske)
and Delmar (Marissa Grice).
Photo credit: John Lamb
With makeshift presents and only shreds of knowledge left over from the “old ones”, Barlow (Ryan Lawson-Maeske), his wife Delmar (Marissa Grice), his sister Annagail (Katy Keating) and cousin Kristn (Michelle Hand) come together to celebrate Christmas. Encircled by the audience on three sides, Kristin Cassidy’s scenic design and Meg Brinkley’s props of "the time before” residuals -- old televisions, film canisters, candles, an old generator and Christmas lights are beautifully set. It gives a sense of a civilization that relies on combing through what’s left of the world, thanks also to Jane Sullivan’s costume design and Zoe Sullivan’s sound design of arid landscapes and dogs, all adding to the dystopia.

Barlow Sho’r (Ryan Lawson-Maeske),
Annagail Booker (Katy Keating)
and Delmar (Marissa Grice).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Once everyone arrives and settles in, including a loner (Adam Flores), who’s hidden from the Wilkins, Kristn highlights the gathering with descriptions of "the three bornings”, slipping a ceremonial wrapping around her neck for the cherished telling. When the loner is discovered, Barlow sees an interloper’s presence as a sacrilege to the ceremony, while others see the loner’s presence as an opportunity for education and acceptance. It’s an age-old tale, but the surroundings the story is couched in gives it a freshness that’s well suited for the season.

Lawson-Maeske’s erratic temper as Barlow provides the foil for the lesson, and Keating’s optimistic sister, Grice’s tentatively open Delmar and Hand’s sage Kristn come together for a nice counter-balance. As the loner, Flores shows just enough menace to make him unpredictable, but winningly open and honest.

It’s got one more performance! Check it out before it’s gone.

Incidentals
• Annagail's jacket has a "JC" on it. Nice.


REMNANT

Loner (Adam Flores)
and Barlow Sho’r (Ryan Lawson-Maeske).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Written by Ron Reed
Directed by Deanna Jent
Mustard Seed Theatre, 6800 Wydown Blvd.
through December 23 | tickets: $15 - $35
Performances Tonight at 8pm

Cast
Barlow Sho’r: Ryan Lawson-Maeske
Delmar Nu1: Marissa Grice
Annagail Booker: Katy Keating  
Kristn Taler: Michelle Hand
Loner: Adam Flores

Kristn Taler (Michelle Hand),
Barlow Sho’r (Ryan Lawson-Maeske)
and Delmar (Marissa Grice).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Creative
Lighting Design: Michael Sullivan
Sound Design: Zoe Sullivan
Scenic Designer: Kristin Cassidy
Props Master: Meg Brinkley
Costume Designer: Jane Sullivan
Assistant Costume Designer: Lindzey Jent
Technical Director: Jon Hisaw
Assistant Technical Director: Tom Stevenson
Executive Director: Bess Moynihan
Production Stage Manager: Traci Clapper
Assistant Stage Manager: Chelsea Krenning
Performing Arts Liaison: Morgan Fisher
Assistant Master Electrician: Justin Chaipet
Stage Management Assistants: Ariella Rovinsky and Merlin Bell

Monday, December 4, 2017

A BEHANDING IN SPOKANE • St. Louis Actors’ Studio

A severed hand sits on the box office desk at the Gaslight Theater -- a little something to get you in the mood for Martin McDonagh’s 2010 dark comedy, A Behanding in Spokane, continuing St. Louis Actors’ Studio’s eleventh season. Violence, profanity and comically ill-advised malice has become a trademark of McDonagh’s (The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, The Pillowman), but this play, his first that’s set in the States, doesn’t quite ring true.

A reliably solid Jerry Vogel is Carmichael -- a dangerous drifter who tosses out derogatory epithets as easily as a scorpion stings. He’s been searching for his hand ever since it was viciously removed by a couple of “hillbillies” some 47 years ago. His search has led him down various dead-ends, and now he finds himself in a dingy hotel room in Indiana, again hoping to be reunited with his long-lost appendage. A couple of impossibly stupid weed dealers, Marilyn (Léerin Campbell) and her boyfriend Toby (Michael Lowe) are hoping to score a reward, but when the hand they produce clearly once belonged to an African American, things go pear shaped pretty quickly. Carmichael leaves the couple behind to chase down an implausible lead that Marilyn and Toby whip up, but not before cuffing them to a radiator and setting a lit candle into the spout of a can of gasoline. Mervyn, the curiously creepy hotel receptionist (William Roth) drops in from time to time to ask questions, and offer ramblings about his hopes of heroic adventures in a hotel where nothing ever happens.

Mervyn (William Roth)
and Carmichael (Jerry Vogel).
Photo credit: Patrick Huber
English born to Irish parents, McDonagh has a knack for managing to elicit more and more laughter as the brutality in his plays are ratcheted up, but this time around, something about that usually successful dynamic doesn’t gel. The performances, while offering highlights, remain uneven, but a larger culprit seems to be the script. Flagrant use of the n-word by racist characters is nothing new. Black guys referring to themselves as the n-word isn’t new either. But in breaking out of his familiar setting of craggy Irish countrysides, the American vernacular comes off like a new, unfamiliar toy for McDonagh to play with. This hurts the uncharacteristically sluggish plot -- lighter in weight and logic compared to his past plays, and the characters, especially Marilyn and Toby, whose broad characterizations don’t really give them anywhere to go. Mervyn is an exception, and a committed Roth sells this impervious character with all of the detached, inquisitive naiveté of a child. Vogel’s road-weary Carmichael is nonchalant in his menace, but pointed when he describes how he lost his hand, only reeling it in on the occasions when he talks on the phone to his mother.

Marilyn (Léerin Campbell)
and Toby (Michael Lowe).
Photo credit: Patrick Huber
Directed by Wayne Salomon, this 90-minute one-act can be enjoyed for the quirkiness of it all, because although it’s not his best, A Behanding still maintains a streak of that McDonagh edge. It’s running at the Gaslight Theatre until the 17th.


A BEHANDING IN SPOKANE

Written by Martin McDonagh
Directed by Wayne Salomon
The Gaslight Theater, 358 N. Boyle Ave.
through December 17 | tickets: $30 - $35
Performances Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm

Cast
Carmichael: Jerry Vogel*
Mervyn: William Roth*
Marilyn: Léerin Campbell
Toby: Michael Lowe

Carmichael (Jerry Vogel).
Photo credit: Patrick Huber
Creative
Stage Manager: Amy J. Paige*
Scenic Designer: Patrick Huber
Lighting Designer: Patrick Huber
Sound Designer: Wayne Salomon*
Technical Director: Joseph Novak
Costume Designer: Carla Landis Evans
Props Designer: Carla Landis Evans
Light Board Operator: Amy J. Paige*
Master Electrician: Dalton Robison
House Manager: Kimberly Sansone

* Denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of
Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States

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