A Lovely Violent Piece of Late Night Theatre
|April 9, 2013||Posted by Troy M Apostol under Staff Reviews|
Troy M. Apostol is Director for Hitting The Stage. He is a frequent contributor to Hawai‘i’s theatre scene, mainly in acting and directing.
Clocking in at a scant 45 minutes without intermission, Los Angeles–based playwright Steve Yockey’s A Lovely Violent Ghost Haiku with Gun (and other plays) directed by MFA Directing candidate Alex Munro, is a playfully eerie assortment of desperate souls dancing along a downward spiral. The three short plays that make up the evening are taken from Mr. Yockey’s collection, very still & hard to see. Though outwardly they don’t seem to share any kind unifying through-line, they all share Mr. Yockey’s sparse dialogue and absurdly dangerous situations. These bite-sized pieces of dark theatre are fun and freaky, perfect for Late Night in the Earle Ernst Lab Theatre.
The first play, Heavy Cream — divided into three smaller sections used to frame the other two pieces — tells the tale of three unknowing sales reps of the Buttercow Dairy Company. The three, played by Matthew Kelty (James), Sophia Serafino (Sally), and Leon Sheen (Adam), are all candidates competing for the same promotion. They are brought together by company page Betty (played by Leiney Rigg), to stew in a small square room containing nothing except a stool, a hammer, and a bottle of – you guessed it – heavy cream. Left alone with these three items and little instruction, they are meant to determine amongst themselves who will be the sole winner to achieve the promotion. Let the hungry games begin.
Rigg starts the production off on the right foot as Betty, the effervescent company drone. Munro makes a good call in using her to deliver the obligatory cell phone speech at the beginning of the show, as her amusing expressions and quirky comedic timing preface bizarre twists and turns to come. Her character dominates all three installments of Heavy Cream.
In Foolish Heart, the first complete short play of the evening, Serafino and Kelty are given a chance to shine as Mindy and Keith, a married couple who has just committed an appallingly desperate act for the sake of restoring their family, and are struggling to decide if it’s right and what to do next. Though this piece was dramatic and hard-hitting in comparison to the other two pieces, its subject matter felt ordinary in that it did not share the same spark of surreal peculiarity. The story, though harrowing, could easily have been lifted from a Lifetime movie of the week. Serafino and Kelty do fine work with the material, though I would have liked to have seen the raw emotion bumped up just a tad, making the heart wrenching intensity of the situation that much more gripping.
After a second installment of Heavy Cream, we get the title piece of the production, A Lovely Violent Ghost Haiku with Gun. This jazzy, sultry play, with its thick, heady atmosphere is easily the best offering of the evening. Rigg and Sheen play Girl and Boy, a teenage couple meeting one night under a buzzing, flickering lamp in a deserted park where strange, sorrowful occurrences are revealed. There is a haunting Noh-esque aesthetic to the piece, where the Girl recounts terrible acts in the name of love and loss to the tune of 5-7-5 slam poetry perfection. Rigg again dominates with nuance and presence, supported nicely by Sheen. Music from Sound Designer Seth Lilley deftly sets the mood for the piece, as well as throughout the show, and a simple effect from Lighting Designer Falcon Aguirre adds tremendously to the play’s poetic surreality.
In the final installment of Heavy Cream, things come to a head when human nature upsets the tense equilibrium of the group and the three are forced to use two of the items to their predictable end. Unfortunately, any clever potential the play might have had gets tossed away in a slapstick, half-hearted free-for-all brawl that neither serves nor satisfies. One person wins the promotion, and you see it coming from a mile away.
Ultimately, the show as a whole is demented and delightful, and though there is some predictability, the group upholds the Late Night mission well by creating “challenging, performer-focused theatre… with minimal budget and production elements.”
See the show if can.
It will shoot you in the head
And love you to death.