Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dirty Story at Intiman Theater - Theater Review

Shawn Law, Allen Fitzpatrick and Carol Roscoe
Question : Have you ever seen a woman in the front row of a theater, bend forward to put her face between her knees and cover her ears with her hands so she won't see or hear anything that is coming in the following potentially disturbing sequence of events on stage? Have you then seen that same woman, after intermission, laughing uproariously with the rest of the audience at the hilariously ridiculous antics that the play and its players are presenting? If you have, then you were fortunate enough to be at the Intiman Theatre's studio space this past Friday night, enjoying the vastly entertaining production of John Patrick Shanley's 2003 play Dirty Story with me.

While certainly extreme, this woman's physicalized reactions are the perfect way to frame the experience of witnessing this play. Brutus (Shawn Law) and Wanda (Carol Roscoe), who we meet, and who meet each other in Act 1, start their relationship with barbed tension and allow it to develop into frightening physical and psychological abuse. But shortly before intermission, broad and most welcomed comedy bursts through the door and announces that nothing we have seen so far is quite what we thought. When we return to Act 2, our expectations have been thrown out the window and we are taken on a wild ride that includes an overweight cowboy as Uncle Sam, a British bartender who seems to have walked in from a a Beckett play, ballroom dancing, a hilarious duet of "You Light Up My Life," slow motion stage combat and some of the best comic timing I've seen on stage in  a while, all in the name of global politics.

Director Valerie Curtis-Newton
If it all this sounds a bit like a mess of a play, well it kind of is. John Patrick Shanley is really pushing his metaphors and symbolism here and not all of it comes together. But under Valerie Curtis-Newton's tight meticulous direction, the evening moves at the perfect pace. The conviction and commitment of the cast to the material, in both its silliness and its import, keeps us fully invested throughout. The design team, with a smart, clean and imaginative set by Jennifer Zeyl and transformative lighting and sound by LB Morse and Matt Starritt respectively, really help focus the, at times, three ring circus of a script.

Quinn Franzen and Allen Fitzpatrick

The charming Quinn Franzen as Frank and the outstanding Allen Fitzpatrick as Watson, have such great comic timing together, that I'd love to see them cast together again in a similar Vladimir and Estragon type of relationship in the future. Carol Roscoe is pitch perfect as Wanda/Nipples/Israel, carefully navigating her character's evolution from wide-eyed and hopeful apprentice to militaristic and pious warlord. Only Shawn Law's portrayal of Brutus fell flat for me. He seemed possessed by a manic anger that didn't seem called for by the script and never found a grounded focus on stage.

With classics like Hedda Gabler and Romeo and Juliet and such a great name like Dan Savage associated with Miracle!, it would be easy for Dirty Story to be the least noticed production at the Intiman Theatre Festival. I hope that is not the case. This is a fun and wonderfully executed production that deserves to be seen by a wide audience.

Dirty Story plays as part of the Intiman Theatre Festival through August 25th tickets here

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