Wednesday, September 21, 2011

THE WINNERS • HotCity Theatre

So, how does winning a butt-load of cash in the lottery change your life?  Or more intriguingly, what temptations and behaviors do new-found financial freedom uncover? That's at the center of THE WINNERS, written by David L. Williams.  This play won HotCity's GreenHouse new play competition last year, and it's receiving a full production in its St. Louis premiere in the cozy black-box confines of the Kranzberg.

What's the first thing Cassie (Shanara Gabrielle) and her husband Kurt (Shaun Sheley) do after raking in $337 million?  What else?  They buy a hooker for the night!  See, Cassie used to have the hots for an Asian classmate in college, but she never experimented, so they hire "Tiffany" (Sasha Diamond) a young attractive escort, so Cassie can live out her fantasy.  Naturally her husband was all for it.  After awkward small talk and money negotiations they get down to business.  All of the "action" takes place offstage, but once the first round is over, there's a bit of animosity in the air.  Cassie and Kurt seem to do a little "power-tripping" in light of their upper-hand in the situation, and they proceed to run Tiffany through a series of rather humiliating scenarios.  Throughout the night, we also hear from a crying Shirley, the couple's daughter, over the baby monitor.  Shirley's almost two years old, but not yet able to talk.  Weary of always having to go up and check on the baby, Cassie and Kurt have Tiffany go up to check on her to give themselves a break.  Geez.  Have the hooker do the dishes too while you're at it.

Shaun Sheley (Kurt), Sasha Diamond (Tiffany)
and Shanara Gabrielle (Cassie).
Photo credit: John Lamb
The play takes a major turn in the second act.  A turn that seems to come out of nowhere, and a little disjointed from everything else that's going on.  This is where it becomes a bit challenging to stay with the ballgame, but you'll have to check it out for yourself, cause I'm not giving anything away.  Like I said earlier though, new-found financial freedom can uncover all sorts of responsibility-shirking temptations...

The performances of the three leads were engaging, especially considering some of the situations they had to pull off -- particularly Shanara Gabrielle as Cassie.  The action flowed perfectly under Marty Stanberry's direction, and the realistic and warm set (James Holborow) and comfy lighting (Sean M. Savoie) make you feel at home right as you walk into the space.  Also nice costume work by Jane Sullivan.  Including the lingerie…

This play poses some interesting, if not unexpected questions.  But hey, leaving the theatre talking is better than not, right?

Shanara Gabrielle (Cassie)
and Shaun Sheley (Kurt).
Photo credit: John Lamb

Written by David L. Williams
Directed by Marty Stanberry
Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Blvd.
through September 24 | tickets: $20 - $25
Performances Thursday and Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3pm and 8pm, Sundays at 7pm

Shanara Gabrielle* (Cassie), Shaun Sheley* (Kurt) and Sasha Diamond (Tiffany).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Scenic design by James Holborow; lighting design by Sean M. Savoie; costume design by Jane Sullivan; stage manager, Richard B. Agnew.

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