Adapted by Toby Atkinson from the novel by Charles Dickens
Reviewed by Ronnie Ruff
Sometimes small theatres take a mammoth step forward producing a show that goes beyond what anyone expects from a young company feeling its way through the DC theatre maze. It is a shame when these diamonds in the rough go unseen by the theatergoers, so I hope you won’t miss this Meat and Potato production.
Jane Penman, a struggling playwright, needs to collect some overdue royalty payments to pay her past due rent. As the play opens, she is on the phone to her agent, giving him a kick in the pants. That done, she returns to working out her latest play – an adaptation of Hard Times, Charles Dickens’ epic novel about the harshness of society, and we are in for good times as we get to watch her telling of the Dickens epic using the materials at hand – kitchen utensils along with some rather unexpected devices as stand-ins for some of the characters.
Ms. Atkinson moves from character to character and utensil to utensil with ease and her comic timing is splendid. She brings an unpredictably fresh quality to the rather dusty story that is both welcome and well received. Don’t have time to read the Dickens novel before this coming weekend? (The show closes Sunday, April 29.) Relax and enjoy the performance for its flashes of characterizations. Or read a quick synopsis and enjoy it even more.
At the heart of this one woman show is the outstanding performance of Enid Atkinson who holds an MFA in acting from the University of Minnesota and has been seen in numerous productions around the country. She has been with Meat and Potato Theatre since its inception in 2005.
For those who have not been to 14th Street’s Playbill Café, less than a block from the Studio Theatre complex, the Hard Times set is miraculous to say the least. The play takes place in the playwright’s well appointed kitchen and M&P’s design team has done a stupendous job with the space – akin to a crumpled Crackerjack box – without over doing it. The lights and sound are handled by Artistic Director Toby Atkinson without a hitch.
It is quite possible this show is a stepping stone for Meat and Potato Theatre as they move on to much bigger rocks, maybe boulders. This requires people in the seats though, so it is this reviewer’s hope you stop by Playbill Café for a bit of dinner and a fine show. How about the meatloaf? It is pretty tasty.
(Running time: 90 minutes. No intermission) Hard Times continues thru Sunday, April 29th at at 1409 Playbill Café. 1409 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC. Tickets are $18. Cash at the door. Reserve your space by calling 703-587-5730