Tuesday, April 16, 2013

TAO’s two takes on Reservoir Dogs

The men. Photo courtesy Andy Kuna
Theater Artists Olympia has taken on some tough challenges. This one has paid off in great performances, excited audiences, and lots of blood and gore. It is also — at least in the early scenes — a laugh riot. 

The play is based on the Quentin Tarantino movie and directed by Pug Bujeaud, and they are doing two versions: one with an all-male cast and one with an all-female cast. I should not have to warn those who are familiar with Tarantino’s work that it is filled with profane language, including sexist and homophobic remarks and the most offensive of racial slurs. And there is more graphic violence in this play than in any play I’ve seen, with the possible exception of TAO’s Titus Andronicus, which was also directed by Bujeaud. 

The women. Photo courtesy Andy Kuna
There is sometimes a fine line between art and pornography, and Reservoir Dogs is art. It is outstanding art.

On a very limited budget and in a tiny performance space, this cast and crew have created riveting theater. The set designed by Marko Bujeaud and Michael Christopher (who plays Blonde in the male cast) consists of a table top, some chairs and some moveable boxes with everything painted a dull battleship gray. This stark set enhances the gritty action, as does the videography by Two Bards Productions and the great ’70s music. The shatteringly climactic scene is choreographed to “Stuck in the Middle With You,” choreography by Christian Doyle.

There is no way I can single out every actor whose performance deserves recognition, because they all do. I will mention a few whose acting is extraordinary.

In the female cast Jennifer Rifenbery is cold as ice as Blonde. Her acting is the epitome of self-contained energy. Whereas Rifenbery’s Blonde comes across as calculating and evil, Heather Christopher’s Pink is a wisecracking, smartass, streetwise broad who doesn’t put up with anything, doesn’t trust anyone, and flies off the handle at the slightest provocation. Christopher’s acting is a joy to watch.

Heather Cantrell as Nice Guy Eddie and Dana Galagan as Jo are both explosive, and Kate Ayers plays White as a pent-up bundle of nerves. 

This whole female cast is deserving of an award for ensemble work. So is the male cast.
The differences between the all-female and all-male casts are subtle but fascinating to observe. 

Like Rifenbery in the female cast, Michael Christopher plays Blonde as a cool customer, but his performance is more humorous. Both are chilling in meting out calm and measured mayhem, but Christopher does it with maniacal glee. Similarly, Christian Doyle and Cheyanne Logan are each convincing as the gut-shot Orange and turn in powerful performances in the climactic scenes, but in the earlier scenes Doyle plays it with sly humor and Logan is more naturalistic. 

Brian Jansen’s Pink makes Heather Christopher’s Pink look even more manic by comparison; Jansen’s Pink is more subtle but equally funny. Mentioning these differences in approach is not in any way to imply that one is better than the other. They are all excellent, and each brings something unique to the stage.

Other outstanding performances by the men were those of, Tim Shute as Joe, and Tim Samland as Holdaway.

Doing both a male and a female version was Bujeaud’s idea, and it was brilliant. Unless you are easily offended by excessive cursing and violence you really should get yourself down to The Midnight Sun and see this play. If possible, take in both. There are discounts for the double feature, the "Gender-Blender Special."

Check out the video “Get a Sneak Peek at the cast” by stage manager, Vanessa Postil.

Reservoir Dogs Men:
April 19,21,25,27 - 7:30 pm
April 20,26 - 10:00 pm

Reservoir Dogs Women:
April 18,20,26 - 7:30 pm
April 19,27- 10:00 pm
April 21,28 - 2:30 pm

The Midnight Sun Performance Space, 113 N. Columbia Street in downtown Olympia.
Tickets: $12.00 available at the door or online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/280157

No comments: