Friday, July 26, 2019

Stinkers Smells Pretty Fresh

What happens when you end up parenting your own parents?

Photo by Dan Norman

Has any locale in #tctheater had a better year than the Jungle?

Photo by Dan Norman

In a climate when many of our treasured thespian institutions seem to be crumbling under the repercussions of #metoo era revelations, this small Uptown enclave seems to be faring better than ever. Packed audiences (many of whom are skewing into the much-desired under 40 demo); shows running on concurrent stages; selling out in a polar vortex; debuting 3 new world premieres; hiring women for all manner of roles off-stage and quietly changing the face (and resumes) of our production community… the list of successes is endless, and it’s only getting better if evidenced by the Jungle’s season closer, Stinkers.

Photo by Dan Norman

Even the story behind Stinkers is amazing: Sally Wingert commissioned a new play from an exciting young playwright who decided to make it about parenting – with dad staying at home and toddlers as actual characters on stage. Like so much of the Jungle’s recent work, Stinkers has just the right amount of subversive energy to keep you giggling in your seats but thinking really hard for days after you see it. It's a delightful piece of new writing that will be making the circuit long after Wingert is gone, and another jewel in the Jungle's crown of recently commissioned originals.

Photo by Dan Norman

Overall, Stinkers tells the story of Brad, a former chef of a failed restaurant whose current career is Stay At Home Dad. Brad seems okay with his life, until his mother Joyce – who has just been released from prison – appears at his house to crash the party. With Joyce comes her prison friend Lilith and the clingy attention of Brad’s good friend Calvin, a supremely lazy man who just can’t seem to get his life together. Joyce quickly whips the household into a ruckus, convincing Brad to start a business selling toy trucks and Calvin to achieve his lofty dreams. The only problem is the underhanded way she does this, using Brad's business as a front for money laundering and coaxing Calvin into taking risks he can ill afford with his lack of employment. Everything crumbles apart as Brad learns his mother hasn't changed that much since prison and Joyce loses her ill-gotten nest egg, leaving them left to appreciate the only thing that really matters anyway - each other.

Photo by Dan Norman

This is such a brilliantly unique script and Sally Wingert shines in the role she commissioned. Wingert's Joyce is unabashedly cocky, completely unapologetic, and a delightful mess. It's the perfect foil for John Catron's very modern father figure in Brad. Catron plays his role so winningly, and it was wonderful to see an unironic portrait of fatherhood and a male character wrestling with many of the struggles and blessings that are often faced by stay at home mothers. George Keller was delightful as the swashbuckling but tenderhearted Lilith, adding depth to what could have been a cliched character. Nate Cheeseman stole the show (as always) with his devastatingly unmotivated Calvin, always eliciting giggles from the audience. And Megan Burns and Reed Sigmund were clever as the puppeteers behind the Brad's children Evie and Oscar. Their presence really helped depict the chaotic state of a home filled with little kids, and their total commitment to the preschool mindset lent a welcome comedic relief to several tense scenes.

Photo by Dan Norman

One of the reasons I love the Jungle is that I can always trust them to do something totally unique. Stinkers is no different and is worth an audience visit. Wrapped inside this lighthearted comedy are some important narratives about recidivism, parenting, modern fatherhood, and so much more. It's a colorful piece perfect for the depths of summer and something you can enjoy taking your best friend or wryest auntie to. It's a fantastic capstone to a transcendent season at the Jungle, and I highly encourage you to check it out. Stinkers runs through August 18; for more information or to buy tickets, click on this link.

Photo by Dan Norman

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Where on Earth Have I Been?

Greetings from the future, lovely readers…

Photo courtesy of One Heart Africa

I bet some of you are starting to wonder what the heck has happened to me!

In one word: Africa.

I spent all of June 2019 on the trip of a lifetime through several countries in West Africa. Naturally, a trip of this length is a real bomb in one’s work life, so I needed several weeks before and after to pre-work and play catchup for being gone so long.

I’m slowly getting back to normalcy and to having time for things like blogging! I am definitely taking some extra time post-trip to evaluate that I have enough space to accomplish all of my goals (working up in my paid job, volunteering with causes important to me, etc.), so please note that although I’m still around, I may not be on here as consistently as you’re used to depending on workload.

That said, I’m not going anywhere – and I still want to take you all along for the ride. I will be doing a series of posts about my trip breaking down tips and tricks for traveling in West Africa, which I have found is a region not often covered in media outside of local media. I’m so excited to share this with you all and learn together about places that deserve far more attention and respect than they get.

Thanks for hanging in there, and please continue to reach out as cool things arise! I love hearing what’s going on and will happily share what I can when I can.

XOXO, Becki