Love is a Blue Tick Hound

I knew little to nothing about this going in.  I knew it was a series of four one-act plays by Audrey Cefaly and that it was a predominantly female cast- the perfect fit for the Women’s Voices Theater Festival.  The blue lights dimmed, a spotlight appeared and…nothing.  Crickets.  I thought, well, this is a dress rehearsal- but then Lance Bankerd jumped into the light and not only is he utterly adorable, he is the new artistic producer for Rapid Lemon!  And he not only does the perfunctory announcements, he tells us all four of these one acts were directed by women.  Well, damn, ya’ll- let’s do this thing!

The first act is “Fin and Euba.”  Two women, Fin (Carolyn Koch) and Euba (Lauren Erica Jackson) are sitting out back by the water, enjoying a cigarette and cold beer.  They work in a local factory and live in a boarding home with some strict restrictions.  The two lament their fates as they are trapped in the dead-end prospects of their lives.  To me, this was the weakest of the four plays, although it had nothing to do with the performances!  Carolyn Koch and Lauren Erica Jackson act like old friends, even if they bicker like an old married couple.  The tension is over Euba (Jackson) submitting photos to a magazine that Fin (Koch) took.  But Fin doesn’t want to open it and see the answer, she likes the “unknown.” There is a gorgeous aesthetic created when the lights go down to almost black, leaving a thin blue line on the back wall while the two characters sit silently illuminated only by fire light.   Although authentic and comedic at moments, it is not as intriguing as some of the other one acts offered in this production.

The second act is “Clean.”  Lina (Betse Lyons) is an odd waitress who has had a particularly rough evening at the Italian restaurant.  As she lays on the floor trying to center herself, a dishwasher named Roberto (Justin Johnson) is exiting and stops to check on her.  Justin wins all the awards for his spot on depiction of an immigrant working a job in a city that has a NY kind of vibe.  He was utterly believable and fantastic.  And this is the play I would give the gold star to- directed by Lee Conderacci, Lyons and Johnson have real chemistry and the arcs and falls, the arguments and quips, and steaminess builds to a natural and satisfying crescendo. I almost applauded close to the end when they finally figure each other out (trying not to do the spoiler thing).  Adore, adore, adore.  I could watch this one again. But, there was an intermission.  Good, I am going to remove the steam from my glasses…

Act three is “The Gulf” directed by Betse Lyons and featuring the always alluring Aladrian Wetzel as Betty and Donna Ibale as Kendra.  At first, it appears to be just two friends in a boat fishing, well one is fishing and one is reading a book.  Their accents and southern depiction is well timed and properly comical without overdoing.  Kendra (Ibale) is a bit on the difficult side, and Betty (Wetzel) appears, at first, to be on the simple side.  The tide really turns in this play when there is a strange but sultry knife dance that Betty does while tempting Kendra.  That’s when you realize they are a couple, but in an awkward “we click but don’t fully click” kind of way.  As Wetzel tries to help Ibale find her calling in life via a self-help book, Ibale continues to get more agitated until there is a visceral confrontation.  I could watch Aladrian Wetzel act for days, so this one gets the silver star, for second best of the night.

Act four is “Stuck.”  An ironic title for play directed by Lauren Erica Johnson, starring Mike Smith as Bob, and Lee Conderacci as Maggie.  Smith has arrived at Conderacci’s apartment for a first real date after meeting via online dating service and for a brief coffee mini-date previously.  This one gets the star for best comedy off the bat.  The awkward but sexually charged nature of a date is so thick you can feel it, and the actors milk it for all it is worth.  I love that she is wacky and unpredictable and asks to pierce his ear (thus the “stuck”); and that he acquiesces.  From there they sort of fall into a rhythm of deep and somewhat predictable chatter that centers on them on a couch, and that is where it fizzles out for me.  I found myself lost a bit in their meandering conversations and unable to grasp if they were connecting or killing time.  They appeared to be genuinely connecting, but I thought the first half was more solid and intriguing.  All in all, though a nice end to the evening.

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?  Go!  It is the Women’s Voice Theater Festival and this is a play that is directed solely by women!  Support this!  Get out there!  And enjoy the music between the scenes, the ebb and flow of the four different one acts, and the sold acting and chemistry the wanders in and out of the evening. (B)

Love is a Blue Tick Hound is playing at the Theater Project from Jan 12- Jan 21. Then it will be at  The Calital Fringe Feb 9 – Feb 17. There is construction near Theatre Project and lots of parking meters “closed” so allot extra time for parking and navigating.

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