All the Rage
nytheatre.com review by Josh Sherman
July 31, 2008
Occasionally, there arises a piece of art that somehow managed to fall through the cracks, to become tragically overlooked here, and left mounted only in out of town environs such as Chicago. Thank goodness that there is a community of artists that regularly manage to rescue such gems—like the wonderful group at Manhattan Theatre Source that has mounted the stellar New York premiere of All The Rage. Written in 1997 by the criminally gifted playwright Keith Reddin, this anti-handgun polemic absolutely pulses with energy under the deft hand of director Daryl Boling. With the dark comic timing of a fine Elmore Leonard novel and the body count of a Tarantino flick, All The Rage captures a moment where a reckless, gun-crazy cast of characters crash into one another's lives like waves on a restless sea. The two-and-a-half-hour run time (with a quick intermission) truly breezes by in this stunningly funny two-act masterpiece.
The story has more twists and turns than a theme-park queue, and each one has its own level of deliciousness, so I will not spoil too much of the labyrinthine plot. Paranoid husband Warren opens the play by blowing away an intruder whom he believes to be his wife's lover. Helen leaves Warren and goes into hiding as a result of a conversation with Warren's lawyer Tim. A very funny and very violent chain of events follows in a somewhat La Ronde-ish manner as each character seems to smash into another's life in each successive scene, affecting what comes next in the lives of each.
All The Rage's prevailing theme is handguns, and their emotional and physical power on those who own them, and on those who wind up on the wrong end of them. Reddin skillfully uses dark humor to illustrate his own rage at a world that permits them, and also at how quickly a life can unravel. He pounds his anti-violence point home by peppering the piece with soliloquies that are often poetic, profound, and deeply theatrical. Note: while I was watching the play I did often think it would translate well in a cinematic medium—and as it happens, it already has. Reddin adapted All The Rage into a screenplay (called It's the Rage) that won several awards at the Milan International Film Festival back in 1999, with a star-studded cast including Gary Sinise, Joan Allen, Anna Paquin, Jeff Daniels and Andre Braugher, among others).
Fittingly, Boling has assembled a standout cast to surround the three axes on which All The Rage spins, and the ensemble deserves high praise for diving into each character so completely that one forgets that they are acting at all. Greg Stuhr manages to make Warren dangerous, creepy, sympathetic, and funny—often within the very same line. Anne Bobby gives us an empathetic take on Helen's yearning for mental peace and gives us someone to root for. Rich Fromm's take on Tim is so wonderfully complex that it's nearly impossible to tell what side of law he's on—other than his own. Benjamin Jaeger-Thomas, as Tim's gay lover Chris, shows us both loving warmth and psychotic rage as two sides of the same coin—and is positively brilliant. Steve Deighan wrings tons of deadpan laughs out of the dogged detective Tyler who is trying desperately to solve Warren's murder case. The remainder of the ensemble (Jeffrey Plunkett, Laura Schwenninger, Medina Senghore, Ryan Michael Jones, and Peter Reznikoff) each have several standout moments and do not make a misstep—for my money it is the finest cast this side of Osage County. Boling not only gets the most out of each and every actor, he makes it appear effortless, smooth as silk. All The Rage operates like a well-oiled machine and that is all Boling.
Everything about this production of All The Rage is fully organic. Every audience member gets a front-row seat to the bloody mayhem through the modern jagged set design by Travis McHale. The lighting from Kia Rogers emphasizes the disjointed, shattered feeling of the play. Rounding out the creative side is the appropriate music of Little Jack Melody and his Young Turks and equally appropriate sound design from Drew Bellware; solid costumes from Kathleen Leary; and fight choreography by Carrie Brewer.With summer theatre festivals in high gear and swarming New York, there are many different choices you can make when deciding what show to go see. All The Rage is not only worthy of being selected for viewing, but ought to be required.