KAPTAIN KOCKADOOBy Carla Parker
Original Music by Carla Parker & Justin Locklear
Ochre House Theater
Directed by Carla Parker
Music Director – Justin Locklear
Scenic Artist – IZK Davies
Set Design – Matthew Posey
Costume Design – Amie Carson
Props Design – Mitchell Parrack
Lighting Design – Kevin Grammer
Puppet Design – Justin Locklear
Stage Management – Ellen Shaddock
Kaptain Kockadoo – Ben Bryant
Annabelle Anne – Marti Etheridge
Farrah Sue – Cassie Bann
Peanuts – Kory Parker
Uncle Willie – Kevin Grammer
Uncle Cat – Mitchell Parrack
House Band – Aurora DeWilde, Olivia de Guzman, Bronwen Roberts
Reviewed Performance: 8/20/2017
Reviewed by Chris Hauge, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
I really enjoyed Kaptain Kockadoo and yet I am having trouble coming up with the proper words to describe what it is I saw on Saturday night. I’ll go this route. Part of the inspiration for the script came from news stories about the reclusive polygamist sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, particularly the compound in El Dorado, TX. Their prophet, Warren Jeffs is presently serving a Life term plus 20 years for child sexual assault in a Texas prison and is still prophet and leader of the FLDS from his prison cell. The main tenet of the FLDS is polygamy, which is the reason the sect split from the Mormon Church in 1929. Having a minimum of three wives is a guarantee of entry into heaven and the more wives one has the closer one is to heaven. Total membership is estimated to 7,000 to 10,000 and the members live in segregated communities in six locations in North America (the one in Texas, the Yearning for Zion ranch has been closed, the women and children relocated and the property seized by the state of Texas).
Wives and children have no power. Women are to dress modestly so as not to stand out from one another as wives. All power and permission come from the husband or the prophet. Marriages are arranged by the prophet and the ages of the wives can be a young as thirteen. All matters of the compound are handled by the prophet and his word is law. It is a restricted world where wives and children do as they are told and obedience is the main virtue.
Of course, this would make a great children’s television show. The audience finds themselves on the set of the Kaptain Kockadoo show-a high energy dose of learning, inspiration and religious fanaticism. The set hearkens to the early days of children’s television and particularly to the beloved Bob Keeshan, known to those of us who grew up in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s or 80’s as Captain Kangaroo. Kaptain Kockadoo (Ben Bryant) has a navy-blue blazer with white stripes on the lapel, cuffs and pockets that is very reminiscent of Captain Kangaroo’s blazer from the 50’s and early 60’s (thank you costumer Amie Carson). And the format of the show is the usual display of puppets and stories and advice and letters from the viewers and-well you get the idea.
So, the lights go down and we are the audience of a live broadcast of the Kaptain Kockadoo Show. Uncle Willie (Kevin Grammer) comes out and begins directing the band composed of his three wives (Aurora DeWilde, Olivia de Guzman and Bronwen Roberts-all dressed modestly) and out comes the Kaptain and his three wives Annabelle Anne (Marti Etheredge), Farrah Sue (Cassie Bann) and Peanut (Korey Parker-It is Peanuts in the program but I could swear I heard her called Peanut throughout the evening) to wish us a musical “Top of the Morning”. What follows through the night as the broadcast goes on and off the air is the mounting tension among the Kaptain’s three wives and their abusive and tyrannical husband. A thin veneer of sweetness and happiness vanishes once the camera is off and the Kaptain becomes his true self-the prophet of the almighty and master of his wives.
Mercifully, playwright Carla Parker has managed to walk that fine line between comedy and drama with deftness. The heaviness of the material is sprinkled with liberal amounts of humor and the play never feels like a hammer for a point of view (except Kaptain Kockadoo’s). I applaud her for tackling a subject like this and pulling it off. And she directed her script very well.
Ben Bryant’s character is the lynch-pin of the show and on opening night he showed a bit of tentativeness with the lines, which affected the pace of the show in places. A play like this needs to crackle and there was the occasional lapse. I put some of this down to opening night jitters (no one is immune-no matter how many years you’ve been acting) because Mr. Bryant’s commitment to the character is total. His belief that is word is law is shown not only in his speech but in the way he stands and gestures. He knows he is God’s prophet and everyone else needs to know it as well. And there is an almost hallucinatory scene with a talking scroll that is wonderful to watch. It’s good work.
Uncle Willie is such an odd combination of affability and naked macho posturing. I’m not sure how you do that but Kevin Grammer succeeds. He provides an easy-going balance to the Kaptain’s fanaticism. He provides us with a character who knows he benefits from the present system the religious tenets provide, but still possesses the moral clarity to know when things have gone too far and is willing to take a stand. Be sure to watch for Mr. Grammer’s other appearance in the show. He’s just charming
The Kaptain’s three wives are wonderful. Marti Etheridge as the eldest wife and appointed guardian of the other two is a joy and a heartbreak as Annabelle Anne. Ms. Etheridge’s shines with joy and darkens with despair and takes all the audience with her as her inner frustration leads to a break down that is incredible to watch. As the middle wife Farrah Sue, Cassie Bann shows the waning optimism of a person trying to make the present situation work to her advantage. She is also the operator of a rabbit puppet and provides it with a delightful high-pitched gibberish which extols the virtues of the show’s sponsor, the Tool Barn. Korey Parker’s Peanut is the only one wanting to acknowledge the reality of the situation and isn’t afraid to speak her mind no matter the consequences. Ms. Parker gives a strong and memorable performance.
The House band must be mentioned. Aurora DeWilde, Olivia de Guzman and Bronwen Roberts provide the propulsion for the show and do so with a great deal of talent. Thank you.
And now I move to Uncle Cat, designed (as were all the puppets) and manipulated by Justin Locklear. I don’t know what to say but wow. Mr. Locklear makes Uncle Cat very real and mystical. My cats at home know they are divine and Uncle Cat is that, and more (he initiates a rather bizarre sacrament of communion with the Kaptain that is funny and disturbing). And Uncle Cat does pull focus from time to time (there’s something very interesting going on with Uncle Cat and the rabbit puppet-keep an eye out for it) but his actions are worth watching. Mr. Locklear also manipulates and provides the voice for a delightful talking tree.
So, come on you grown-up kids (actual little ones should stay at home), come to the Ochre House Theater, put on your pajamas, get a bowl of your favorite cereal and spend some time with the Kaptain. You may not be glad you did but you won’t forget it. And this is a play worth remembering.
Ochre House Theater
August 19 – September 9, 2017
Monday August 28, 2017
All performances at 8:15PM
825 Exposition Ave. Dallas, TX 75226
Tickets - $17 at the door or www.ochrehousetheater.org