Regional Reviews: San Francisco
A Wild and Frantic Production of Plautus's
Evren Odcikin, who was awarded the 2013 TITAN Award by Theatre Bay Area and selected as an Emerging Theatre Leader by TCF for their AmEx Leadership Bootcamp, has pulled out all stops with this absurd comedy. Titus Maccius Plautus, who wrote this play around 254 B.C., certainly influenced Shakespeare.
The plot centers around the calculating, wily slave Dexter (think Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum). He employs deception to reunite his master Nautikles and girlfriend Convivia while making a sucker out of Major Blowhard. It all depends on coaxing the twin sister of the girlfriend, who by coincidence is living next door. Of course, everything happens with characters darting in and out scenes in this fast-paced and inexorably physical 100 minute no intermission farce.
The Braggart Soldier plays in the style of commedia dell'arte with a dash of burlesque and some circus clowns thrown into the mix. Dexter, played by Alan Coyne, could pass as a clown for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. He tumbles, turns and bounces all over the stage. He certainly hams it up in this production, and I mean that in a good way.
Kai Morrison, in an outfit that looks like something out of a Ray Harryhausen film, plays the perfect idiot as Major Topple d'Acropolis who is so full of himself. Matt Gunnison as the servant slave Haplus clowns around the stage and certainly overacts in every scene, but it is meant to be this kind of role. He has great comic timing.
Jef Valentine, who wears one of the best sexy costumes with a strange cod piece, is hilarious in the role of the lecherous Hospitalides, especially with the sex play with Convivia the girlfriend, played very well by Eden Neuendorf. Catherine Luedtke gives a terrific performance as Climax, a classic whore and dominatrix. Rounding out this energetic cast is Darek Burkowski as the boyfriend Nautikles. He gives a good performance in a relative small role with very little campiness.
Evren Odcikin not only adapted this play from a translation by Deena Berg, but also directed and provided the scenic design. The set looks something out of a children's TV show on PBS. Costumes by Keiko Shimosato Carreiro are outlandish, and lighting by William Campbell is bright and garish. Liz Ryder nicely uses musical pieces from Fellini films, setting the mood for many of the scenes.
The Braggart Soldier, or Major Blowhard is a big, brassy and rowdy production. Yes, it's really over the top. It runs through April 26th, 2015, at the Gough Street Playhouse, 1620 Gough at Bush, San Francisco. Tickets can be obtain at www.custommade.org. Coming up next is Grey Gardens opening on May 22nd.