nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
March 6, 2008
What would happen if ultra-conservative values swept the country unchecked? One thing is for sure, you certainly wouldn't be able to go to the theatre and see a seedy, sneering play like Angel Shit. I expected this play to be a little more tragic but on the contrary it is the funniest play I've seen this year.
It is set in the squalid living room of a working junkie nurse named Carol in Omaha, Nebraska. She and her junkie friends, Flounder, Rooster, and Brenda are on a constant hunt for more heroin. The sitting Republican governor, who is a cross between an evangelical TV preacher and ambitious politician, hatches a plan to win the war on drugs—and it's so simple: kill the drug users. She infects the heroin supply with a flesh-eating virus so now instead of flying high they bleed from their eyes and their faces peel off. However, this little plan is only a part of a bigger plan revealed at the end.
Playwright Ian Allen has a blast with this play. His junkies are funny, fun-loving people and it's these freedom-hating Republicans that are out to get us all. Allen's dialogue swings from being very natural to exceedingly inflated. He also slips in some twisted and sometimes soulful monologues. Allen's vision for a world that is sleazy and despicable also manages to highlight the mundane routines of his characters and that works very well for him because this is a character-driven play. He also likes to break the reality of our world and the characters' world with a variety of conventions. His sense of humor is sick and disturbing and I loved it. The plot is decent though not the strongest aspect of this play. The story leaves you feeling slightly unfulfilled—it suffers from a completely incongruent turn around and a quick wrap-up, but that really didn't bother me because I had such a good time.
Russell Dobular directs a production that does not let your attention waver even for a second. He conducts scenes with multiple focus points and scenes that overlap into the next scene. He pushes his cast into characters that are all equally over-the-top and the pace is a fast drive down a twisted road. I also have to mention Christopher Shepard's hilarious choreography in his Dance of the Rush of Heroin at the end of the show.
I am not entirely sure if I would have laughed as much were it not for the playful and dedicated performances of the main actors. Vanessa Cleary plays Carol with a very dry sense of humor and a dull glow in her eye. (However, she is stuffed with fake fat and I'm not sure why an actress with some real meat on her bones was not cast.) Matthew Watkins plays Flounder and he is one of the funniest in the entire cast. He completely nails his opening monologue and this sets the tone for the rest of the play. Kendra Jewell is an absolute scream as Brenda, the spaced-out prostitute. Her character laugh is as infectious as the virus poisoning her friends. Finally, Martha Lee plays the Governor so overblown that I thought her perfect hairdo was going to explode. I loved hating her. She makes being a bad guy look like so much fun.
End Times Productions hits with this piece. It may be too vulgar for some folks but not because it means to be offensive; it just wants to make you laugh at the ridiculously extreme segments of our society. And you have to admit, there's a lot to laugh at when it comes to junkies and zealots.