Misfortune, misfits, and mis-direction. All plague the “D.C. State Players” and as Tonee Bollocks (a.k.a. Tony Bollocks), the “Director,” leans toward the audience, he pontificates, “the best laid plans of mice and men… ”
“…are like sands through the hourglass,” finishes Gabriel Sweetbottom, (a.k.a. Gabriel Swee) the “Producer.” Laughter sounds, and three minutes in, it’s clear everyone attending The D.C. State Players Present Agamemnon will suffer a side ache post show.
Bollocks and Sweetbottom open their farce with a verbal duel that masquerades as a heart-to-heart with the audience to drop a bombshell: you’ll not be seeing the play you “think” you paid to see. A “general malaise” has besieged their original affair—a stirring, modernly twisted Agamemnon—and arrested several actors’ participation.
Apologetic (with a dash of conceit), they instead offer a dress rehearsal viewing with a half-cast of misfits and a regrettably bland set reminiscent of Rome, not Greece. A lack of “emotion evoking” lighting is begot by an oft-referenced (but never fully explained) fire as an unknown H Street DJ cues music clearly not intended by the likes of Aeschylus, Socrates, or Herodotus.
Bollocks and Sweetbottom’s impeccable timing, chemistry, and conversant tone commence a polished production, a play within a play that parodies a Greek classic with smartness and humor akin to The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).
The cast is perfect—always funny, never mugging. From the overeager Chorus (Briana Manente and Brianna Meriwether, a.k.a. Lily Kerrigan) to the stoic Agamemnon (A.J. Calbert), each embodies their character and character-within-a-character confidently and fully. Ashley San, as the bloodthirsty Clytemnestra, is an emotionally unstable, awkward mess. Sweetbottom takes on any role that lost its originator to that pesky fire. All seek the adulation of Bollocks the “Director,” who displays a mis-educated superego more than once, while A.J. plays his rich voice, sermonizing as the tragic King of Argos, against his deadpan physical being. It’s cringe-worthy, indeed, and inappropriate, and funny as hell.
by Tonee Bollocks
at GALA Theatre at Tivoli Square
3333 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20010
Details and tickets
Somewhere in the middle of this rehearsal-cum-mayhem, I realized that were this the real deal, A.J., Briana, Brianna, Ashley, Sweetbottom, and Bollocks could probably play these roles with seriousness as well as they play them with absurdity.
And that’s the best part of The D.C. State Players Present Agamemnon—everyone in it can act.
It’s also a genuine collaboration wherein each individual appears to have influenced the final incarnation. The result: balanced fun. Tonee Bollocks may only feign theater mastery while on stage as the “Director,” but off-stage as The Director, I imagine his mastery is quite real.
Though there’s nothing earth-shattering, soul-quenching in the content, after a day in an office, from which I emerged thinking I’d never know laughter again, The D.C. State Players Present Agamemnon reminded me that funny is always possible. Even in tragedy. Especially in tragedy. And, well, maybe, that is soul quenching.
Five stars, 6 stars, 32 stars–however many stars we’re giving out these days, I give the D.C. State Players all of them.