Roaring is a peek at the tumultuous 1920’s as seen through the eyes of a plucky go-getter, Mabel Daniels (Kara Burri). In this fun-filled digital original by Best Medicine Rep’s John Morogiello, we witness history unfold as Mabel romps through the decade finding her own way while history unfolds under her feet. Determined to call her own shots, she ends up befriending (and sometime bedding) an assortment of legendary characters.
Take the dawn of radio for example. Long before television took over, it was the ultimate in immediate communication. It’s fun listening to the conundrum of early producers trying to figure out what to do with the thing. Once radio signals became available as commercial property, and radios could be manufactured, why would anybody want to buy one? What’s the draw just because it can pick up a signal? Mabel finds herself filling up dead space by singing, then announcing, of all things, presidential election returns. Voila! The rest is history.
Launching from her hometown Detroit, Mabel’s travels plop her at the right place, right time, just when a new discovery is emerging. With magnetic appeal and moxie she ends up drawn into assortments of escapades and before she knows it, she’s in the middle of somethingshe needs to escape. Then poof— off she scoots to another adventure.
Some of the snippets are so perfectly timely, they’re uncanny, like opening with reflections of the 1919 “Spanish Flu.” Mabel’s wily charms snag her a chorus line bit where she gets tips from Sophie Tucker and tries vaudeville –at least that’s a step up from burlesque, she muses. She finds her way to Hollywood only to get groped by Buster Keaton, then ends up in the arms of Babe Ruth, dropping tidbits about them along the way. Morogiello’s script is full of fascinating nuggets and gems about figures from Zelda and F. Scott to Gertrude and Alice, Anna Freud, and even some gun popping flair from Al Capone himself.
Roaring enlightens and entertains with Kira Burri as a charming maestro leading the way. Burri isn’t a household name—yet– but her traipse through this roaring decade portraying characters, both savory and unsavory, reveals her star power. She lights up the stage with a natural prowess, skillful mannerisms, a well-placed prop and facial expressions. While stronger vocals would make her a powerhouse, she covers the territory with enthusiasm and remarkable ease. Also, more innovative direction would even out the hanging patches where she has to pace back and forth as characters for some of her duo dialog.
Costumes by Elizabeth Kemmerer are drop dead gorgeous. The early receptionist unassuming calf-length pencil skirt soon gives way to sparkles, bangles, feathered cloche hat and enough fringe to cover a flapper convention. The results are stunning show stoppers. Tune in and see for yourself.
The digital stream format keeps this solo show engaging with cameras alternating between multiple takes and angles. Teamed with careful lighting by Sam Lincoln and piano accompaniment by Joe Morra the result is a pleasing achievement.
Roaring at Best Medicine is a wistful look back at a tumultuous decade full of heartache, invention, decadence, transitions and fortitude as witnessed through a rambunctious character who grabbed life with gusto. Mabel saw it all while searching for meaning and purpose. Only when the stocks crashed to rock bottom was she finally able to pause long enough to see and appreciate the love of her life who was always there– and let him in.
Roaring Written and Directed by John Morogiello . Cast: Kira Burri . Costumes: Elizabeth Kemmerer . Sound: John Morogiello . Set: John Morogiello and Mary Roberds . Lights: Sam Lincoln . Editor: Stan Levin . Piano: Joe Morra . Recording Engineer: Jamie Boyd . Cameras—Stan Levin, John Morogiello and Evan Morogiello . Stage Manager: Jen Bryant . Produced by Best Medicine Rep . Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson
Roaring streams through November 22, 2020. Tickets : $10. Available here.