REMEMBER RUDYby Carla Parker
Ochre House Theater
Playwright & Director - Carla Parker
Composer & Music Director - Justin Locklear
Set Designer - Matthew Posey
Scenic Artist - IZK Davies
Set Engineer - Mitchell Parrack
Lighting Designer - Kevin Grammer
Costume Designer - Ryan Matthieu Smith
Puppet Designer - Justin Locklear
Sound Designer & Stage Manager - Korey Parker
Rudolph Raeburn - Kevin Grammer
Father/Old Ghost - Ben Bryant
Mother/Pearl - Marti Etheridge
Sarah/Shirl - Monét Lerner
Jake - Chris Sykes
Guitar - Lyle Hathaway
Keyboard - Thiago Nascímento
Cello - Sarah Rubío-Rogerson
Percussion - Trey Pendergrass
Reviewed Performance: 4/20/2019
Reviewed by Rebecca Roberts, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Parker took a relatively simple premise, and built an incredibly imaginative and vibrant world around it. She assembled a brilliant cast to bring her work to life, and staged them with balanced perfection. Her dialogue came across as extremely genuine, and her script’s themes of memory and relevancy were clearly presented and consistently carried through.
Kevin Grammer skillfully opened the show in a five-minute silent monologue, at the end of which, an audience could easily comprehend the complex character of Rudolph Raeburn without having heard a single line of dialogue. Accompanied only by stirring instrumentals, Grammer clearly represented a lonely alcoholic fighting against depression in order to regain significance and disperse of his (not so) inner ghosts. As the play progressed, he had to gracefully transition from sober to a little boy, to drunk, to a drunk little boy…and then also sing and do magic when the moment arose. His commitment to the role was clear and he shouldered the titular role admirably.
Chris Sykes played the ever present but only occasionally observed Jake. His pleading stares and agonizing pleads added an emotional complexity to the plot. And his performance in the magic scene in the second act fostered a beautiful tension between the depth of the dialogue and the buoyancy of the action.
Each of the remaining actors in the production shouldered two different roles – one of which was as a cast member from the retro TV sitcom that made young Rudolph a star, “The Ghosts of Saratoga.” The featured actor of most note was Marti Etheridge, who gave incredible performances as both Mother and Pearl, with perfect delivery and hilarious physical comedy. When Etheridge was onstage, it was impossible to look anywhere else.
The scenic team of designer, artist, and engineer (Matthew Posey, IZK Davies, and Mitchell Parrack respectively) effectively maximized the tiny intimate stage to perfection. I audibly gasped at the sheer mechanics, when the initial scene change took place – previously convinced that there was no way any such scene change could possibly happen on such a small stge. And the intricate details of Rudolph’s gloomy apartment flawlessly juxtaposed the idealized, vibrant, 2-dimensional television set of “The Ghosts of Saratoga.”
Although simple, Ryan Matthieu Smith’s costume designs effectively captured each character’s personality and mental state. Rudolph’s satin embroidered robe indicated the character’s insistence on maintaining past glories, topping a disheveled layer of clothing indicating his depressive state of mind. However, the fold wrinkles on Rudolph’s shirt, his ratty belt, and his more work- than dress-shoes seemed distractingly uncharacteristic, even for a man down on his luck. Additionally, the Old Ghost character was dressed not too unlike a certain CHRISTMAS CAROL character with an affinity for chains, which abstracted the character’s true nature and purpose in the show. However, all other ghosts and figments in the production (yes, there were several!) were designed with a distinct and appealing aesthetic.
Not only did Justin Locklear beautifully compose and direct the stirring music throughout the entire production, he also acted as puppet designer. In fact, Locklear designed some of the most complex and innovative puppets I have ever seen. Although their purpose in the production felt unclear and slightly forced, I was still surprisingly delighted by their presence!
All the production and performance elements were exquisitely presented in this musical. However, I spent a majority of the evening confused by the script’s abrupt variances in mood. While I appreciated and enjoyed the peculiar moments where we got a peek into Rudolph’s mind, they may have been better served if all remaining tangible moments were better grounded in reality. Had the singing and supernatural elements been relegated to only dreams, drunken stupors, and memories, it might have been easier to accept the heartfelt and genuine scenes in a more meaningful way. That said, as an original work, I found great joy and satisfaction in seeing it come to life for the first time. This occasionally bizarre but consistently entertaining production is absolutely worth the trip to Dallas. Support new works and local theatre by seeing Ochre House Theater’s production of REMEMBER RUDY.
Ochre House Theater
825 Exposition Avenue
Dallas, TX 75226
Plays through May 11th.
Appropriate for audiences ages 18+.
Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8:15 PM.
Tickets range from $12-17.
Donate-What-You-Can Night: Monday, April 29th, 2019
For more information and to purchase tickets, go to https://www.ochrehousetheater.org or call their box office at 214.826.6273.