The Column Online



Regional Premiere
By Clare Barron

Kitchen Dog Theater

Directed by Tina Parker
Stage Manager – Ruth Stephenson
Set Designer – Clare Floyd DeVries
Lighting designer – Lisa Miller
Costume Designer – Melissa Panzarello
Sound designer – John M. Flores
Props Designer – Cindy Ernst Godinez
Technical Director – Adrian Churchill
Assistant Director – Parker Gray
Assistant Stage Manager – Katie Brown
Master Electrician – Ryan Burkle
Manager of Literary and Community Initiatives – Haley Nelson
Graphic Design – SullivanPerkins

Mae – Jenny Ledel
Dad – Barry Nash
Cowboy – Max Hartman
Mac – Ryan Woods
Hannah – Brandy McClendon Kae
Matthew – Ruben Carrazana
Jenny – Haley Nelson

Reviewed Performance: 2/14/2019

Reviewed by Chris Hauge, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Much of life’s humor and poignancy occur during awkward pauses in conversations, the silence that hides what we really want to say to those we love. Playwright Clare Barron knows this and has given us a play that is both outlandish and touching. Under the deft direction of Tina Parker, the talented cast of You Got Older bring Ms. Barron’s script to life with great skill and heart.

We are given the story of Mae (Jenny Ledel), who has come back to her family home in eastern Washington to take care of her father (Barry Nash). She also left Minneapolis, MN to escape the disaster her life has become. Having broken up with her boyfriend and losing her Job, Mae is lost. With the feeling that she has no present and no future, she escapes to her fantasy life where she is trapped in a snow-bound cabin with a mysterious and seductive cowboy (Max Hartman).

But reality always intrudes. And in Mae’s attempts to come to terms with her life, we are invited to laugh. And we laugh because we recognize what each character is going through, and the humanity the cast invests into the play makes each moment real. As we meet Mae’s siblings, Hannah (Brandy McClendon Kae), Matthew (Ruben Carrazana) and Jenny (Haley Nelson) we are shown the messiness of family interactions that all of us have experienced. To relieve her torment with sex and affection, Mae arranges a tryst with Mac (Ryan Woods), a local man. Of course, reality trumps fantasy. We laugh at all this and we feel deeply about it because the cast is totally committed.

The world they inhabit was designed by Clare Floyd DeVries. It’s incredible in its use of space. We move from Mae’s family house, to a bar, to a hospital room, to a snow-bound cabin and all places in between with ease. Complimented by the lighting design of Lisa Miller, we are immersed in the atmosphere of each place, whether it be the harshness of a hospital to the brooding darkness of fantasy. The costumes by Melissa Panzarello gave a good picture of the characters and their tastes. I was also taken with the sound effects and music (sound design by John M. Flores) with sounds that took us into roaring blizzards and transition music that would abruptly cut out at the beginning of the scene, leaving us as slightly disoriented as the characters as they try to communicate with each other.

I commend director Tina Parker for her handling of this script. She is not afraid of silence and has led her actors through these moments with skill. And the actors communicate with each other with a sense of reality, which points to Ms. Parker’s subtle guidance of her actors and to the talent of the cast she has assembled. There is a scene in hospital room that rings so true you feel as if you are eaves-dropping on a real family or reliving a similar time from your own past.

The character of Mae is a mess and Jenny Ledel brings her to life without a single insecurity hidden from view. She is worried about her father, who is recovering from cancer surgery, and reeling from the loss of her job and a relationship. She feels lost in life and love, horny as all get out, and so she leaps into the arms and ropes of her fantasy cowboy. Ms. Ledel gets lost in her character. She conveys the disorientation of being back were she grew up and feeling like she has achieved nothing. Her struggle towards a feeling of wholeness is remarkable to watch.

Barry Nash plays Dad with a vulnerability that is astounding. His character is struggling his own fears and still wants to be supportive of his daughter. Like all fathers, Dad leaves much of what he wants to say unsaid and the struggle that causes is visible on Mr. Nash’s face. He reminds me of the late Richard Farnsworth in his ability to give us so much through his facial expressions. His delivery of lines is tender and nuanced, and Mr. Nash gives us an unforgettable Dad.

As the brooding, sexually menacing cowboy of Mae’s fantasies, Max Hartman is perfect. Whether delivering the line “It’s blizzarding.” with dead-pan seriousness or his announcement that he is going to rub Mae all over her body to save her from freezing, Mr. Hartman provides the right amount of menace and promise of fulfillment. With his intensity and presence, Max Hartman is perfect for his upcoming role as Sweeney Todd at Circle Theatre. I am looking forward to seeing him again.

As the local man who promises to be a sexual diversion for Mae, Ryan Woods makes for a very likeable Mac. There is a sweetness he exudes even as his character talks about liking pus and Mr. Woods acts out being slightly drunk better than anyone I have seen. You can’t help but enjoy his performance.

Brandy McClendon Kae portrays Mae’s sister Hannah with strength and sincerity. Her time with Mae, her brother Matthew, her sister Jenny, and her dad in a hospital room is very real. Veering from mothering her father to commenting on her siblings’ lives, Brandy McClendon Kae gives a finely crafted performance. Ruben Carrazana as Matthew and Haley Nelson as Jenny also deliver good performances and are such an important part of the emotional validity of the show.

I did at times feel that some of the scenes went on a little too long but that is opinion and doesn’t say anything against the over-all quality of this production. The last scene seemed overlong to me at first, but the feeling of joy in the midst of all that life throws at us touched me in the end. It made me feel very hopeful about life.

Kitchen Dog Theater has given us a great production of a lovely play. This is not a laugh-a-minute comedy, but you will laugh. It is not an out and out tear-jerker, but you will cry. And, in the end, your money will be well-spent and maybe you’ll walk out feeling that life, no matter how messy it gets, is a wonder—fantasies and all.

Regional Premiere
Kitchen Dog Theater
February 14 – March 10, 2019
Thursday – Saturday-8:00 PM
Sunday-2:00 PM
The Trinity River Arts Center
2600 North Stemmons Freeway, Suite 180,
Dallas, TX 75207
For information and tickets call 214-953-1055
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