The Halloween Plays
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
October 23, 2010
The Halloween Plays is a collaboration of two different companies, Company XIV and Brave New World Repertory Theatre, that makes for a night of the unexpected. But not the kind of unexpected you might see in a late-night thriller movie—the kind of unexpected where you don't know what to expect from each act because one is so different from the next.
The show opens with Company XIV's Denouement which is described as a Neo-Baroque murder mystery. There is really not a mystery at all but there a lot of dead bodies. The performance is hosted by a tall, dark character in knee-high patent leather boots with stilettos that could impale a pea. He struts in and around the performance, guiding at times, nudging at others while aristocrats in sassy 17th century garb play a little game of blow each other away. "Who will be the last one alive?" Only the host speaks and other than his poetic quips there is only a beautifully choreographed dance to tell the story of these aristocrats' petty squabbling and decadence.
The production value here is stunning. There are some extremely creative and talented forces coming together. Zane Pihlstrom designs both costumes and the set and he does a phenomenal job. The costumes are playful and sexy and the set is evocative. The scrim with the trees at the top of the show that reveals the performers in shadow is a cool effect. Pihlstrom has a great eye for detail and yet he keeps it relatively simple and doesn't overdo it. Director/choreographer Austin McCormick creates an air of depravity and elegance. His choreography tells a good story as it builds tension and suspense. I enjoyed the mix of Spanish folk dance with modern and ballet. His vision of a world where the rich are bored and need some new kick is contemptuous and explosive. The cast of dancers are all beautiful and talented. They do amazing work and make it all look so smooth and filled with passion. I felt utterly drawn into the action and I didn't want to miss a second.
The show that follows, Too Much Candy, is described as a spooky fairy tale. The premise is very clever. Playwright Cynthia Babak gives us Hansel, from "Hansel and Gretel," who is all grown up and in therapy, and she unfolds a funny story about his obsession with candy using dream sequences and confrontation. His wife, daughter, and therapist are all trying to help him get over his obsession but he has locked away some memories that maybe he should never let out.
Babak's script is immediate and smart. I think this play is great for all ages. Director Neil Balaban lends some clear distinctions between dream and reality and creates a fun atmosphere. The cast does a great job with this very enjoyable story. I especially liked the two young actors Chris Caputo and Abigail Drach. Scott Voloshin is also memorable as the Witch.
The final selection is Salsa by Greg Kotis. We find two guys sitting at a counter in a diner eating and smoking. One guy shakes some salsa on his food, eats and looks...well let's say disappointed. From there they muse and eventually rant about finding the hot in salsa again. There is no salsa out there anymore that can satisfy their need for the burn. Finally, one of them reveals that he has the hottest salsa known to man. It is the salsa of the ancient Mayan gods! But he has other things in mind for his heat-seeking friend.
Kotis's script is hilarious. It's pitched and filled with fervor. Director Chip Brookes is right on with his slow build into the climax of this short play. Kevin Hogan is very funny as Harry, the man with the Mayan salsa. He channels Ignatowski from Taxi while his new friend Joe, played well by Sean Patterson, is stoic and gruff. I really enjoyed this play. I'm a huge fan of salsa so I really understood their pain.
This production is worth a look not just because these two exciting theatre companies do great work but also due to the incredible collage of style and talent. I loved not knowing what the next segment might bring. There is a little something for just about anyone. Catch this one before you have to wait until next Halloween.