HUNTING AND GATHERINGby Brooke Berman
Amphibian Stage Productions
Directed by Harry Parker
Scenic Designer - Bob Lavallee
Costume Designer - Kathleen Culebro
Lighting Designer - Fred Uebele
Sound Designer - David Lanza
Properties Designer - Megan Beddingfield
Lydia Mackay - Ruth
Garret Storms - Astor
Kelsey Summers - Bess
Sam Swanson - Jesse
Reviewed Performance: 4/12/2014
Reviewed by Angela Newby, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Director Harry Parker brought together four amazing actors that nail the friendships Berman had in mind while writing this piece. Their chemistry works well together on stage.
Lydia Mackay, Ruth, is a natural on the stage. Her facial expressions show the journey of fifteen different homes and the relationships she has found, lost, and continues to look for throughout the performance. As the leading character of the play, she is put into the emotional roller coaster of where is home. Through tears and rushed lines, the audience is able to feel the panic of having to leave a house sitting job within two weeks and having no other place to go. While learning how to play Big Buck Hunter, Mackays stance truly portrayed the conflict she had of wanting to be domineering, but also be protected. She used physical acts of wringing her hat, cocooning herself within a sweater, and twirling a phone cord to show her insecurity and allow the audience to truly relate to Ruth and the struggle as she searched for home. Mackay is a natural and a joy to watch.
Garret Storms, Astor, a true hipster at heart loses character a few times throughout the performance. It is hard to distinguish if he is truly from New York or California. Either way, Storms does an excellent job allowing the audience to see past his hipster side into a man who truly wants a steady home. As Astor propositions Ruth, his facial expressions of worry and fear show the true meaning behind what does going to the next step really mean. Storms stance of towering above the rest of the cast allows his authority to shine through his couch surfing ways. His light hearted personality is easy to spot as his smiles and winks are authentic.
Kelsey Summers, Bess, is a firecracker on stage and portrays the “I want to be older than I am” college student perfectly. She has a great mix of charm, confidence, and challenge. Summers vocal expression within the classroom scene showed her domineering side of always getting what she wants. She never lets go of character and her eye rolling towards Jesse shows that she will always get what she wants. Her stance while playing Big Buck Hunter had the audience in tears as she shakes her rear end and rocks her head. There are times though that Summers sounds like she is just repeating lines without the emotion. It is hard to understand her falling out of love with Jesse and her new love when her facial expressions and tone are lacking the sentiments of the words.
Sam Swanson, Jesse, steals the show for me. Jesse is the only character in the play that has a professional career, is divorced, and is lost in a world he once reined. Swanson allows the audience to relate so that you might feel sorry for him and can see your own story through him on stage. His personality and facial expressions align so well with where Americans are today, being on the top of the world one day and the bottom the next. With hunched shoulders, hands in pockets, and always adjusting his glasses, Swanson truly has down the beat-down character. The most pivotal scene is when Ruth barely lets Jesse talk, but Swanson’s actions of trying to but in, wringing hands, and dejected look truly show that he has lost the best thing that has ever happened to him. I completely believed his role of realizing too late what he really wanted in life. Bravo Swanson!
Costume Designer Kathleen Culebro did an amazing job outfitting the four characters to fit their personalities perfectly. Their costumes help set the tone and life stage of each of the characters and allow the audience relate to them and the struggle of finding oneself.
Lighting is designed by Fred Uebele and while it helps set the mood, there are a few scenes in which the actors could have used the spotlight versus a bright room. There is also a distracting fade at the end of act one when going between two apartment scenes. The most appropriate use of lighting comes with the full color of the background to show the anger of the scene when it is fully red as the characters struggle to find a place to go.
The sound design for this play is present, but not loud enough to allow it to set the mood of the scene. It leaves the audience wanting more, to not only hear it but to finish the scene to completion.
The staging within the production is off at points, with actorsbacks to the audience, making it difficult to fully take in the meaning of the scene. It is hard to gather the heat of the moment between Ruth and Astor after they have moved their relationship forward when you only see Ruth’s back and it is blocking Astor’s face.
Both Properties Designer, Megan Beddingfield, and Scenic Designer, Bob Lavallee, work miracles in the cozy venue to bring the true size of New York real estate to life. The audience feels the cramped quarters of the apartments, the lack of space and the few items that it takes to make a house a home.
Overall, the four man crew does an amazing job moving the set around to hit each of the different scenes. At times, the scene is still being moved as the next scene’s dialogue begins, which is then lost in the distraction of the still moving set.
At the end of the show, not only are you left with a sense of closure of the search, but hope that all of the adventures you go on will get you to exactly where you are supposed to be.
Location, Location, Location. As Ruth, Astor, Bess, and Jesse all look for the perfect home, make sure that you find the perfect seat in this charming venue as well. It is general admission, so make sure to arrive early to get a center seat to not miss out on any of the action.
Amphibian Stage Productions
120 S. Main Street, Fort Worth, TX 76104
Runs through May 4th
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8:00 pm, and Sunday at 2:00 pm.
Tickets are $33.00, $28.00 for seniors, and $18.00 for students.
For information and to purchase tickets, go to http://www.amphibianproductions.org/ or call the box office at 817-923-3012.