Hyde Park Theatre,

through November 22

Running Time: 1hr, 30 min

Sometimes promo graphics give it all away. Poster art, program art, and postcard art really clue you in to all the clues you need to figure out a particular show. Who doesn't know the Phantom mask or the Cats eyes? It all boils down to a clever, eye-catching logo that can contain all the pertinent bits about the show that a potential audience member would need. The promo art for Rude Mechanicals' Lust Supper is a big, shiny heart, not a valentine-cut-out-of-red-construction-paper type heart, but a cleanly-dissected-from-the-chest-of-some-poor-shmuck kind of heart plastered on the page in (mercifully) black and white.

Rude Mechanicals has never been the kind of company to throw dancing cats at audience members to keep them from thinking about the subtext of their theatregoing experience. Last summer's curst & Shrewd and 30 Plays in 60 Minutes From Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind proved that this company knows a heck of a lot about what theatre really is and what it really can be: loud and crude, constantly blowing smoke in your face while you laugh at the absurdity of it all. Lust Supper is no different.

Written by Kirk Lynn, the Rude playwright in residence, Lust Supper is a simple story about a dinner, a bottle of wine, and some flowers. Oh, and some dependence, dysfunction, and bone-crushing desire with Beckett-ian overtones thrown in for good measure. Lynn covers this ground with ease and a razor-edged wit, only pausing long enough to let the previous riot settle before launching into the next.

Director Sarah Richardson knows exactly what to do with Lynn's text, sculpting furious fits of movement on Madge Darlington's simple and effective forced-perspective set. Douglas Taylor, Catherine Glynn, Marc Balester, and Edi Patterson give finely tuned performances that know the secret of acting in an absurdist world. For these characters who are forced to find a reconciliation in a family gone bizarre, Lynn's skewed world is reality. No matter how odd it may seem to those of us looking in, for this strong and gifted cast, the action onstage is a matter of life and death.

Your mind just can't help going back to that heart. To reach for the obvious conclusion, this is a show with heart, the kind that is vital to survival because it delivers fresh blood, has been brilliantly cut from its dark cavity to illustrate what goes on beneath the surface, and takes itself just seriously enough to do its job efficiently. But there are other less cheesy realities that lurk just below Lynn's hysterical surface that wait to snatch your own heart in their jaws. — Adrienne Martini


Victory Grill,

through November 15

Running Time: 1 hr, 10 min

"Curiouser and curiouser!" Alice exclaimed as her body transformed unexpectedly before her. The same can be said for Alice, En Route Productions' modernization of Lewis Carroll's classic Alice in Wonderland, in which our heroine and her odd entourage appear through a modern looking glass and stalk not a wonderland, but a seedy urban underworld. Just like the wonderland of our childhood, this is a place where the inanimate bristles with life, where spooky whispers and giggles come from the most unlikely places. But Alice, like its predecessor, maintains a cartoonish goofiness and a spirit of adventure in the face of its dank, creepy surroundings.

Alice (Jamie Smelser) is a disillusioned debutante, all stiff and pretty in her taffeta dress when her world unexpectedly flip-flops. She encounters Rabbit (Michael Brantley), a slick, fast-talking goodfella with no time for tarts such as she. Dazed, our debutante stumbles into a nearby dive, where the Caterpillar (Colin Hughey), an eccentric, self-absorbed drag queen, is just taking the stage. Of course, (s)he is no help at all, and Alice must continue her fruitless search for sanity amidst chaos.

Desperate for answers, Alice wrests a gun from Rabbit and winds her way to the illustrious palace of the Queen of Hearts. On her battered journey, only the most memorable of Carroll's characters pop up — the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, the Queen's gardeners, Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, an adorable Dormouse — but part of the surprise and delight of watching En Route's production is discovering what curious shapes these famous characters take.

The rather large ensemble cast remains tightly focused throughout, and Smelser, whose distraught Alice is the play's one straight character and voice of sanity, performs admirably.

Writer-director Lindsay Doleshal has made an impressive debut, and, as En Route's third production, Alice showcases a group of young artists both innovative and ambitious. Victory Grill, a seemingly odd theatrical locale, turns out to be pleasantly appropriate for this ominous vision, and offers almost no hitches. Doleshaw goes to painstaking lengths to fill the empty space and give the haunting illusion of depth. However, the actors seem saddled with some unnecessarily elaborate set changes, making the flow seem choppy at times.

The play is surprisingly brief (a tad over an hour), and loyal Carrollites might take issue with some simplistic scenes and a few grand liberties. But Alice doesn't feign to be a probing intellectual drama or even a treatise on the work itself. Rather, it wickedly kidnaps its heroine and its audience for a wild ride, where childhood memory and adult anxiety lurch from ambush.

As the new kids in town, En Route is in the curious position of proving themselves capable and serious. With Alice, they do.

— Sarah Hepola




Tarrytown Gallery,

through Nov. 22

A plump, dwarf-sized male sits precariously on a teetering pillar, his tiny left hand stretching upward, his enormous right hand resting on his knee. He's fashioned from parts, components — a sort of Frankenstein monster in ceramic. Behind him, in sharp contrast, two female nudes recline and relax, their alabaster bodies slightly broken by streaks of brilliant red and cool blue highlights. They make "Strange Companions," indeed, for the stout fellow on the perch.

These diverse visions of the human form comprise the nexus of this show, and they are as different as the artists' media of choice. Tisdale's sculptures of corpulent, portioned people explore a malformed aspect of the human appearance. The figure on the pedestal, titled I Am Here, has disproportional feet and hands, rough tree limb-like skin, and a charred face, as if he had experienced burns all over his head. Deep craters are settled into the top of his crown, capping off an overall appearance that borders on grotesque. Yet the title of the work, the hopeful and determined look on the figure's face, and the confident reaching grasp of the left hand, alludes to something else at work here, perhaps a promising journey for a seemingly hopeless creature. Tisdale shows obvious dexterity with ceramic, somehow employing the material to look like petrified wood in one piece and shimmering metal in another. He transforms ceramic often used for smooth, conservative designs into a wonderfully malleable substance, full of character and capable of many textures.

Allen's use of oils is no less impressive. His paintings present a world of ghostly female figures, barely-there muses stirring in the darkness. A black backdrop engulfs the almost translucent bodies, which seem to be illuminated from behind. The fluid outlines of the two female nudes in Keeper of the Boundries is like hot lava, as if their bodies might melt or vaporize into the background. Their piercing stare is chilling — dark intense eyes contemplate your moves from behind glowing, molten faces. A dog positioned over their heads appears to be standing guard, on the ready for any sudden attack. The painting is sensual and sublime, like an illustrated version of an Anaïs Nin poem.

Although these artists' works are obviously different in style and media, there is a visible connection in their subject matter: the portrayal of human appearance in an unusual and provoking manner. "Strange Companions" is a fitting title for this diverse collection. — Cari Marshall

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