Part Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, part Agatha Christie mystery (your pick), and part ‘Strangers at a Bus Stop’ actor’s warmup, Hootenanny by Monique LaForce is a nice little ride into Scarytown.
The premise seems simple at first: backstage at ‘Hootenanny’, a bluegrass musical version of Macbeth, the lead actress and a bit player cross paths. Both have some time to kill before they’re expected onstage, and what starts out as awkward small talk gradually morphs into flirtation and a reveal that, while not out of the blue, is nicely rendered.
The dialogue between Art and Commerce mirrors the lengths each character will go to to get what they want: and that’s the crux of this intriguing piece. At a spare hour long, the payoff is glimpsed at halfway through, but it’s no less scary for seeing the train on the tracks long before it hits you.
For this show, it helps to know your Shakespeare- and your pop culture too. Lots of references abound, from Hamlet and Lear to the Amish, X Files, the Hogwarts Express and dancing with Ellen. And let’s not forget the Dude who abides. It’s unexpectedly funny in a lot of places- or at least that’s how it reads. The afternoon I saw the show, it was lightly attended- and lightly attended always means light laughter, a shame, given the witty script. Music by Dead Men’s Hollow adds a nice tongue-in-cheek tone; how can you hear a bluegrass version of “Bubble bubble toil and trouble” and not crack a smile?
Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival
October 2 – 11
at National Museum of Women in the Arts
1250 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC 20005
October 17 – 18
The Receiving Vault at Ivy Hill Cemetery
2823 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22302
Details and Tickets
Sharper direction by Catherine Aselford could have helped here, for there were plenty of punch lines that went unpunched, plenty of undercurrents played as straight dialogue, and as a result, the banter-turned-realization scene lacked what could have been a shazam moment for the audience.
All that aside, it’s a good piece, one which could use more rehearsal for sure, but I found myself wanting to see it again, for on October 17th and 18th, it moves from its snug little theatre at The National Museum of Women In The Arts to a much different locale- the Vault at Ivy Hill Cemetery.
C’mon, who doesn’t want to see a play in a cemetery – in October!- about less-than-morally-upstanding actors? Sure ya do!
And I hear the change of venue really ties the room together.
Hootenanny by Monique LaForce . Director: Catherine Aselford . Featuring Doug Krehbel as Chip, Cate Brewer as Samantha . Music by Dead Men’s Hollow. Produced by Guillotine Theatre . Stage Manager: Lisa K Blythe . Reviewed by Jill Kyle-Keith.
Sidebar: of late, there is much discussion about how younger audiences new to the theatre don’t seem to know the unspoken rules of the game: no texting, no talking, no pictures, etc. For a good laugh, Google ‘Patti Lupone cellphone’ for a full tutorial.
During this performance, about 3/4 of the way in, two ancient old ladies came in, closing the door with a bang. One of them said very loudly to the other, “Oh. It’s a PLAY, not a MOVIE.” They sat down, continued to talk loudly, and after five minutes, abruptly left just as loudly as when they entered, banging the door closed a second time. I’m sure the actors heard them- the audience certainly did! (and kudos to the actors for not missing a beat during all this.)
Millennials can now sigh with relief- apparently, folks, it isn’t just the young who can have bad theatre manners!