First and foremost, I’m a pretty seasoned theater-goer. I’ve seen quite a few Texas Tech Theatre shows, and I’ve got to say, this really could be the best one I’ve experienced.
Am I a theatre critic by any means? No. But if you know anyone in journalism or theatre, we’re all cynical enough to be.
This play was described to me as “Fifty First Dates” on the stage, and in some ways, it is. And by some ways, I mean the only thing that is similar is the main character has amnesia which takes hold when she’s sleeping, so every day is brand new. In the play, she is even referred to as “a little blank slate.” Terrifying. So, yes, it’s “Fifty First Dates” but about 600 times more tragic.
Now before I get into individual performances, I’d just like to say this play was absolutely the best choice for a college acting department. It was just the right amount of emotional challenges needed to help the actors grow, but it wasn’t trying to be edgy and sexual (Lookin’ at you, “Equus”).
So, onward to the fun part–the actors.
The creatures. It’s really hard for me to get into things that involve audience participation, but when I get bombarded by people in body glitter and tights in the lobby, you can almost always count me out. When these six creatures started crawling around and lyrically dancing on the floor of the lobby, and eventually floor of the (really awesome and well-lit) set whenever the seating began, you better believe I had almost shut down. I loathe audience participation with everything that I have. Mostly because when I go to a show, I don’t want to feel like I have to work for it. Call me a lazy audience member, but I don’t want to have to play back with an actor so that they can do their job. Annoying. So you can imagine my frustration when the creatures were in my face looking at me like I had a mustache.
Then, the play began, and these creatures began to be figments of each character’s imagination, and, eventually became SET PIECES IN THE SHOW. Hi, what? For example, if a character went to get in the car, two creatures were seat belts, two creatures adapted into doors, and the other two became parts of the steering wheel. It was awesome. So, audience participation–not so much. Creatures being really cool figurative props–hellz yeah.
Moving on. The main character of Claire was cast PERFECTLY. Ashley Rhodes executed Claire’s beauty, poise, and sometimes neurotic nature with ease. There were moments, when her acting choices far exceeded anything written in the script. I was a little wary of the play within the first scene as she played opposite her husband Richard (Troy Battle). Battle was a little much to take in at times, just because he was so…crazy. The way he went from zero to 60 in a matter of milliseconds was almost jarring, and I can’t decide if I liked it or thought it was forced. I’m leaning more toward forced. It felt like he was turning on his acting switch, but it was apparent he was playing himself, playing Richard.
Regardless, Claire owned the show. I’m thrilled with that, too. As much as I love a scene stealer, it makes me much happier when the person casted to carry the show actually does. Side note: she looks like a sad puppy when she cries and it just makes me want to cry with her.
Limping Man (Joel Ison) was absolutely terrifying. There’s nothing I love more than actors who are not afraid to get ugly with their work. Limping Man in the show has really terrible face burns. Ison could have easily rested on the makeup given to him the make his physical deformities, but he went far beyond the physical and changed his voice and temperament, turning himself into a shudder-inducing (but secretly kinda hot) psycho. He even lisped. Let me tell you, it’s hard to make lisping sound menacing, and yet I feared for my life.
There were moments between Claire and her son Kenny (Austin Page) where the silences spoke volumes more than anything written in the script. THAT is acting, my friends.
The last person I have to mention is Millet played by Joshua Barrett. Get out of here and go to New York already, man. He not only played one person, but two. While he played Millet, he had to play Millet’s best friend and confidant– the puppet he wears on his right hand. Barrett goes back and forth between Millet and puppet, more and more throughout the show. The more overwhelmed Millet feels, the more the puppet talks…and it’s uncontrollable. Out of this world talent. And, furthermore, Barrett’s got some lungs on him. He screams throughout the show, and somehow keeps it from getting on the audience’s nerves. Well played.
The show runs from Monday, Feb. 11 to Saturday, Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. each night, and a 2:00 p.m. matinee on Sunday Feb. 17. Students can come at 7:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. for the matinee for a free reserved ticket. When reserved tickets are out, students can be put on the student rush list and receive left over seats, or buy one for $5 with a student I.D. Regular priced tickets are $10.