note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Carl A. Rossi
I recently caught a performance of its BITS & PIECES, sketches that boasted of “inventive physical comedy and bold theatricality”. The young(ish) troupe still has quite a ways to go as pantomimes or clowns (when the performers run on and off, for example, we are watching the performers, not the characters they are impersonating); their comedy leans towards the cerebral --- their brains may be sharp as tacks, but their bodies are wooden or limp from the neck down (I Sebastiani they are not).
George Saulnier III
Two years ago, I attended Rough & Tumble’s production of Chekhov’s story THE LADY WITH THE PET DOG which I described in my year-end summation as, “A clever little adaptation, cinematic in its flow of plot and characters on a nearly bare stage, but saddled with actors who in voice, movement, and just plain Acting 101 skills could not do justice to it.” I recently caught a performance of its BITS & PIECES, sketches that boasted of “inventive physical comedy and bold theatricality”. The young(ish) troupe still has quite a ways to go as pantomimes or clowns (when the performers run on and off, for example, we are watching the performers, not the characters they are impersonating); their comedy leans towards the cerebral --- their brains may be sharp as tacks, but their bodies are wooden or limp from the neck down (I Sebastiani they are not). The more clever sketches had several performers truly coming at you in bits and pieces: in “Day of the Giant Red Things” two hands, creeping about in a toy theatre like pink spiders, squabbled over balls that rolled across their paths; and in “That *@!%ing Hand Is Back”, one of the hands returned to feed and torment two gibbering heads balanced on a counter. The evening suddenly leapt into brilliance with “You Know Why You’re Here”, a man’s bittersweet reflections about an elusive woman he has secretly loved since adolescence and is now the best man at her wedding (the quirky yet poetic dialogue was supplied by playwright William Donnelly); amidst all the whimsy, here was a PLAY. Kristin Baker, a co-founder and Managing Director of the troupe, played the heroine in a wedding dress from teen years to altar which, hauntingly, took on a social significance: this woman has no other function in life but to be married off to whatever swain will claim her --- the fate of a debutante.
In addition to Ms. Baker, who can make herself pretty or plain, Irene Daly (stout and hearty) and Tori Low (thin and sharp-featured) had their amusing moments; Chris Cook and George Saulnier III rounded out the cast with beefy variations of Men are Stoopid. Fred Harrington’s deadpan score, a blend of Scott Joplin and Philip Glass, made these BITS & PIECES seem far more substantial (and funnier) than they really were.
THE LAST ADVENTURE OF LANCE ADVENTURE
Lance Adventure … John Michael Dupuis
Cordelia Pellington … Krysta Zeiset
Reginald Stitch … Lonnie McAdoo
TRY NOT TO STEP ON THE NAKED MAN
Donna … Krysta Zeiset
Barker … John Michael Dupuis
Frank … Traford Burke
Carny Hedgeway … Juliet Gowing
John Edward O’Brien is a strong contender for Oddest Directorial Decision of the Year: in Sean Michael Welch’s, TRY NOT TO STEP ON THE NAKED MAN, there was indeed an undressed chap sitting on a living room rug, claiming to be “living art” to the shocked man and accepting wife who inherited him, but Mr. O’Brien hid his Adam (“Frank”, really) from the audience with a couch placed downstage center, flanked by another at a 90-degree angle, stage left. Audience members in the front row could, with a little rubbernecking, view enough of actor Traford Burke to satisfy their curiosity; those in the rows behind them were treated to the top of Mr. Burke’s head --- the one on his shoulders. I gather Mr. O’Brien wants the audience to observe and, like the wife, accept the friendly, non-threatening Frank in the altogether and agree what an idiot the repressed, hysterical husband is; by boxing Frank in with couches, Mr. O’Brien reduced the audience to mere voyeurs, straining for a peek. The play itself petered out (no pun intended): the husband shed neither clothes nor inhibitions and the (female) boss who came to dinner conveniently took Frank off his hands. Several missed insights, here.
For the record, Mr. Burke seemed quite relaxed in the altogether, which is no small feat: onstage nudity is the most difficult costume to wear, and to wear well.
The opening piece, THE LAST ADVENTURE OF LANCE ADVENTURE, had the title character, a former Indiana Jones-like adventurer, and Cordelia Pellington, his sidekick-turned-wife, encountering their arch nemesis Reginald Stitch while waiting for a bus. Lance and Reginald are now in advertising and their final battle is over a client via cell phone. Lonnie McAdoo made a wonderfully ripe villain, and John Michael Dupuis and Krista Zeiset had more fun playing these comic book characters than that sitcom couple inheriting Frank and Little Willy.