The North Plan

Street Corner Arts' dark comedy stumbles on its way to the revolution, but the show is worth seeing

Backwater revolution: Indigo Rael as Tanya
Backwater revolution: Indigo Rael as Tanya (Photo courtesy of Street Corner Arts)

The North Plan

Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd, 512/479-7529
www.streetcornerarts.org
Through Dec. 21
Running time: 2 hr., 5 min.

It's a Tarantino tactic: Hypnotize your audience into a state of blissful ignorance by making them laugh, gain their trust, and then give them an uppercut to the face with something so violent and ugly they are left absolutely dazed. Playwright Jason Wells employs this device of disorienting juxtaposition in Street Corner Arts' The North Plan with varying degrees of success.

The stage in Act One is dominated by two metal cages: a couple of jail cells in Lodus, Mo., where the unlikeliest of kindred spirits have a meeting of the minds as they bond over their shared captivity. How like the dueling forces of yellow journalism and serious political discourse are these two characters as they compete for the attention of their captors. Guess which one has the harder time being heard, and guess which one survives.

Although the laughs are not in short supply here, we generally fail to care for this play's main characters. Tanya, the potty-mouthed young trailer park mom in her acid-washed hip-huggers is, of course, an easy target, but in the People's Republic of Austin we expect to sympathize with this story's "hero," Carlton Berg, the midlevel state department hack who we come to believe aspires to Snowden-esque feats of daring. Yet what does he really stand for, aside from privacy and civil liberties at their most vague?

Still, the show is perfectly cast, with Indigo Rael as the backwater babe-cum-revolutionary Tanya, and the white-mustachioed Garry Peters as Chief Swenson, the very picture of a tiny-town sheriff. Kristen Bennett imbues her role as the good girl admin, Shonda-From-the-Hood, with just the right amount of sweetness and light. Her turn at slapstick is right on the money.

Despite the fact that nearly everyone here stumbles over their lines, and some scenes – such as Tanya's opening monologue – are overlong, audience members are clearly engaged and responsive, with many members standing to show their appreciation at the show's dramatic denouement.

Imperfect? Yes, but Street Corner Arts debuted its first show just two years ago. The company is still in its relative infancy, and based on the positive reception of their work, any demands put on the audience by adapting to pacing challenges are worth the extra effort. Maybe this is in-your-face theatre, and "maybe it just looks like the revolution." Either way, it's live entertainment, and as Tanya will tell you, "TV is bullshit."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Austin theatre
Valoneecia Tolbert Geeks Out in <i>Tales of a Blerd Ballerina</i>
Valoneecia Tolbert Geeks Out in Tales of a Blerd Ballerina
The actress looks back at what it was to be young, geeky, and Black

Robert Faires, April 9, 2021

Examining the Sins and Virtues of Hypermasculine Theatre
Examining the Sins and Virtues of Hypermasculine Theatre
When is violence in theatre too much?

Shanon Weaver, Dec. 9, 2016

More Arts Reviews
Book Review: <i>Truckload of Art: The Life and Work of Terry Allen</i>
Book Review: Truckload of Art: The Life and Work of Terry Allen
New authorized biography vividly exhumes the artist’s West Texas world

Doug Freeman, April 19, 2024

Theatre Review: The Baron’s Men Presents <i>Romeo and Juliet</i>
Theatre Review: The Baron’s Men Presents Romeo and Juliet
The Curtain Theatre’s BYOB outdoor production is a magical night out

Cat McCarrey, April 19, 2024

More by Stacy Alexander Evans
Exhibitionism
One With Others
Karen Sherman's surprisingly funny, moving dance and text work was poetry in motion

May 2, 2014

Exhibitionism
Romeo and Juliet
Despite some casting questions, the Baron's Men create a moving and involving version of this well-known tragedy

April 18, 2014

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

The North Plan, Austin theatre, Street Corner Arts, Jason Wells, Indigo Rael, Garry Peters, Kristen Bennett

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle