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Pete Rex

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - February 15, 2018

Simon Winheld, Greg Carere, and Rosie Sowain
Photo by Hugh Mackey

Carl Jung meets Jurassic Park in Alexander V. Thompson's Pete Rex, an unpolished yet intriguing new play about one man's personal journey through psychological darkness, opening tonight at 59E59 Theaters.

Be warned: before you get to the intriguing part, you will need to suspend your disbelief for a long time to get past what seems to be a nonsensical take on a thirty-something man in a state of perpetual adolescence and his obsession with dinosaurs. When we first meet Pete (Greg Carere), he is in his man-cave of a home (cheap furniture, X-box controllers on the coffee table, a case of beer on the floor, blinds drawn against the sunlight). He and his buddy Bo (Simon Winheld) are playing a football video game. Pete is not entirely focused, though. He is predictably distracted by the recent break-up with his girlfriend Julie (Rosie Sowa), but there is something more, something in the air that he can't quite put his finger on.

And then, before you can say "the diplodocids are coming!" in bursts a frantic Julie, warning the guys that the town is being overrun by marauding dinosaurs (confirmed for us by Caitlin Cisek's low-budget but effective production design, Remy M. Leelike's lighting, and Megan Culley's music and sound design). Amidst the panicked confusion that takes up most of the first act, Pete suddenly turns on Bo and pushes him out the door to face a certain death. Act I ends as a dinosaur egg, conveniently lying in wait under the sofa, cracks open and out steps Nero, a young Tyrannosaurus rex (also played by Mr. Winheld.)

After intermission (the play runs an hour and forty-five minutes), things start to make a kind of absurdist sense as the playwright begins to delve into Pete's mental turbulence. But the most creative element is Winheld's gloriously outlandish and absolutely committed performance as the upper crust British-speaking T-Rex. His over-the-top portrayal of Nero is funny, caustic, and threatening all at once, even as we gradually understand Nero's origin as a Jungian archetype, a "monster from the id," to borrow a term from the classic sci fi film Forbidden Planet. "First the clouds. Then the storm. Then the monsters come," is how Julie succinctly puts it as the real battle commences. Either Pete will be able to wrestle Nero back into a quiet corner of his psyche, or the metaphoric T-Rex will consume him. Pete Rex, a production of The Dreamscape Theatre and directed by Brad Raimondo, does need tightening and at least some hint in Act I that we are not merely watching a goofy fantasy about a repressed man-child. But the playwright is on to something here with his examination of a psychological crisis in which imagined monsters burst forth to take over the life of a troubled individual.

Pete Rex
Through March 3
59E59 Theater C, 59 East 59th Street between Park and Madison
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: TicketCentral

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