THE RATS ARE GETTING BIGGER
nytheatre.com review by Saviana Stanescu
Not many shows can be as revolting yet exciting as The Rats are
Getting Bigger, a play with music by Julia Edwards about guerilla
artists, disturbed lovers, damaged dreams, and a rat revolution in New
August 15, 2003
One of the first things that struck me as amazing was the team spirit and the commitment of the actors for this two-hour energy-consuming fast-paced Orwellian story. In a New Manhattan of pigeon-free squares, soy-based hot dogs, and graffiti-free walls, rebellious lovers Ernest and Ariana and their friends fight "the man" with guerilla art posters that threaten a Rat Revolution. Out of their wacky imagination, avant-garde anger and juvenile frustration materializes El Raton, a grotesque rat-nosed man, the heir to the Bloomingdale empire, who has serious Freudian problems since his mother abandoned him by flushing him down the toilet. The baby managed to live in the sewers and now it’s the moment for him and his rat army to rise up and take over the city. Ariana is captured and seduced by El Raton, who becomes more and more dangerous, violent, and dictatorial. A counter-revolution is imminent. Ernest (Brian Sgambati), with the help of a funny gay rat in love with a pigeon, plus many other pigeons and roaches, restores the order and regains Ariana’s love.
Kevin Townley is excellent as the gay Rat 409, El Raton’s personal assistant who turns against him. Quincy Tyler Bernstine (Ariana) is controlled and charming during the whole show, fleshing out a complex and funny character. Glenn Fleshler (El Raton) creates a credible leader of a totalitarian society and balances appropriately the human and grotesque sides of this monster of the sewers. Tamala Horbianski, Polly Humphreys, Richard Canzano, and Damian Baldet play various human/non-human characters with energy and dedication.
The live "garage rock" music by Jay Gogan is powerful and innovative, serving the production extremely well. With songs such as "The First Time I Smelled Your Panties," "You Missed a Spot, Mother Fucker," and "Why Did My Mother Flush Me Down the Toilet," and posters designed by Edward Luce, The Rats are Getting Bigger becomes a strong and disturbing, if sometimes surreal, parable of the dangers of tyranny and the struggle to remain true to one’s self in an alienating world.