The Column Online



by Matt Lyle

The Basement

Directed by Jeff Swearingen
Animation/ Blork Character Design – Jay Schuh
Scenic Painting – Joseph Cummings
Blork's Costume – Joyous Israel
Technical Crew – Dennis Cutillo

CAST (this production is double cast. Cast list is from the reviewed performance)
Doak Campbell Rapp – Blork
Tess Cutillo / Adrianna Hinojosa – Tamela
Jaxon Beeson – Mother
Lizzy Greene – Timmy
Marisa Mendoza – Gramps
David Allen Norton – Dr. Gorn
Jeremy LeBlanc – Homeless Harry
Laney Neumann – Mandy
Madeleine Norton / Taylor Donnelson – Narrator
Karina Cunningham / Christos Kaiafas – Cats/Octopus Creature

Reviewed Performance: 6/25/2013

Reviewed by Joel Taylor, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Fun House Theatre and Film, along with Blork, Tamela and the rest of the cast and crew, successfully scores with Hello Little Human Female. Having enjoyed previous productions at the Fun House Theatre and Film, I have been impressed with their penchant for producing and performing a wide variety of shows that premier highly skilled young talent to present creative works containing a positive message to the community. The current production of Hello Little Human Female is no exception.

For this production, local playwright Matt Lyle adapted this romantic comedy exclusively for the audience and young actors at Fun House Theatre and Film. The content of show has been slightly modified from the original in order to work for the younger actors and audience. Though Hello Little Human Female still retains much of the original material and humor that made it a regional hit a few years ago, this production also includes some new material developed for this production.

This funny and heart-warming story will have you alternately laughing and seriously thinking about the trials, tribulations, successes and challenges of dating, romance, love and relationships, whether online or in person, and most importantly, accepting and cherishing the differences that make us unique Hello Little Human Female is a fanciful story about the search for love and acceptance in the modern age of computer dating. Throw in a mad scientist, his creation that is more human than monster, a girl searching for love, marriage and children. Add in music and lyrics of 1980's love songs, stir in a dysfunctional family or two, a nod to a boy and his faithful canine, include a well-designed and functional set, amazing acting with a witty script, and you have a very funny and thought-provoking comedy.

Director Jeff Swearingen has the added benefit of being involved with the original productions of Hello Human Female, the show from which Hello Little Human Female evolved. Swearingen's comic genius, along with his uncanny ability to develop and direct young talent, makes this show another in a long line of successfully and artfully directed productions for Fun House Theatre and Film. Swearingen takes the young talent in this show and helps them create believable and consistent characters that tell a story and bring you into their world. Even if that world is occasionally absurd, you will want to be a part of it; one where the story is presented by actors who develop and offer characters with depth, a story line that flows, good use of space on stage and resources that include multi-media and well-directed and performed physical comedy by several of the actors.

Joseph Cummings' scenic design has to be seen to be fully appreciated.

As I was walking to the entrance of the theatre, someone commented that I dressed for the occasion. Seeing the confused look on my face, she explained that since I was wearing a purple shirt, I matched the design of the set. After walking into the theatre, I could see what she meant. Cummings designed and painted a set to look like various lengths and widths of mismatched pieces of wood. However, instead of using the expected hues of brown and yellows for the wood, Cummings used shades of purple, black, white and gray. This scheme, along with the various lighting colors used during the production, gave the set an occasional ethereal look that worked well for the various locations within the story.

Joyous Israel created a colorful and very functional costume for the character Blork, one that covers the actor literally head to foot. His hood with shoulder capelet, along with shirt and pants, are sewn with large X stitching to have the appearance of being as pieced together as Blork is, but loose enough to allow the actor to perform the physical comedy integral to that character. Indeed, all of the costumes in the show deserve recognition.

The costume worn by the narrator leans on the side of a Greek orator, with a long, off white tunic and a garland of flowers in her hair. Timmy is dressed in jeans and vivid red shirt with matching bright red ball cap. Grandpa is dressed almost exactly as I would have seen my grandfather several years ago. The obviously fake moustache and wig worn by this character adds a humorous layer to the depth of this character. The costume worn by Mother is a bright blue sweatsuit and large fashion sunglasses so exaggerated that they add an over-the-top twist to the character. The Cats are costumed all in black, complete with whiskers and a tail. Dr. Gorn begins the show wearing the stereotypical mad scientist white lab coat and the elbow length rubber gloves. In his later scenes, he has traded the lab coat for more casual attire as he spends time with his latest creation. The last of Dr Gorn's creation is Mandy. You really have to see this creature to fully appreciate the

Tess Cutillo shows layers of character development and understanding of her character's motivations as she plays Tamela. Throughout the show, Cutillo plays Tamela in an honest, genuine manner with Tamela's willingness to believe the best in everyone. This is readily apparent in the earnestness in Cutillo's face and the manner with which she interacts with everyone on stage.

Some particularly funny scenes include the animation in her face and body while Tamela is communicating via email with Dr. Gorn, her interaction with her dolls, and her meeting with Timmy. Cutillo has fun in this role and is always present in that individual moment and time as her character.

Jaxon Beeson as Mother is simply hilarious. This young man enthusiastically embraces the role of an adult woman with a number of dysfunctions and a certain fondness for her daughter's recording of KISS. The way in which Beeson is overly protective then is playfully sarcastic, I was alternately reminded of the mother in the film Psycho and also one of the ladies from The Golden Girls. Some of the mannerisms that Beeson uses as Mother are obviously exaggerated, but the sincere way in which he approaches this character makes them that much funnier.

Jeremy LeBlanc as Homeless Harry is at times difficult to understand though the high energy LeBlanc brings to this character adds to the humor of the situations. His timing and approach to the tootsie roll scene with Blork demonstrates his understanding of comedy.

In previous productions at Fun House and Theatre and Film, I have enjoyed watching Lizzy Greene in her various roles. Greene has consistently attacked each of them with a confidence, maturity and aggressiveness that is beyond her age level. In this production, playing Timmy, Greene shows her considerable skills as she plays a young boy who wants a pet as well as the affection and understanding from his grandpa. These scenes clearly reminded me of another young boy named Timmy and his faithful, collie companion. Greene shows a well-developed understanding of how to work within the comedy to allow the audience to fully enjoy that moment. She knows how to build each scene to the point where the audience thoroughly enjoys the absurdity of it all.

Marisa Mendoza is another young actress I have previously seen in other Fun House Theatre and Film productions. In Daffodil Girls, Mendoza played a brooding, sullen, over-controlling character. In Hello Little Human Female, Mendoza demonstrates her acting skills and range as she plays Gramps. Mendoza plays Gramps as an old man who is on an emotional roller coaster. Mendoza shows she can effortlessly handle the transitions from the kind and caring grandfather to an emotional wreck who is crying uncontrollably. The obvious wig and fake moustache only heightens the absurdity and Mendoza does a masterful job of consistently maintaining the believability of her character.

Madeleine Norton is the Narrator for this story. At the beginning of the show and throughout most of the production, Norton is seated in a chair on the side of the stage as she occasionally talks to the audience in the tone that a parent or baby sitter would use when telling a bedtime story to a toddler. Her voice and facial expressions are well-chosen to effectively and consistently project an overly sweet and condescending tone that helps make this absurd and funny tale even more so.

As I watched David Allen Norton as Dr. Gorn, I wondered if he had watched a few too many Roger Corman low budget "B" sci-fi movies to study evil scientists that want to take over the world, or had taken inspiration from Despicable Me. If he did, it works! Norton seems to understand how to interject just the right amount of the maniacal urge for power with complete sincerity. As I watched his opening scenes in which he is communicating with a female on an internet dating site in order to set up a meeting, I was watching Norton's expression and mannerisms to see his connection to that moment. Norton is so believable and so "wrong" that I wanted to film the scene to watch over and over, it is that good.

Doak Campbell Rapp is unbelievably good as Blork, and greatly benefits from the opportunity to have Jeff Swearingen tutor and direct him in the role. Swearingen is able to bring his previous experience with Hello Human Female and share his considerable comedic talents with Rapp. His mannerisms as a creature without a brain but with a huge heart are consistent throughout the show. Physical comedy is not always easy to pull off and make it work, however Rapp makes it very successful. Throughout the production he is stumbling, falling, even throwing himself to the ground, all while stooped over and unable to use his hands.

Looking at Blork, I am reminded of a combination of the Frankenstein's monster, Igor and Disney's loveable Hunchback of Notre Dame. Rapp very successfully gives this character a sense of humor, with very good comic timing, a connection with every other character on stage and heart. Blork is made of pieces and parts of over thirty five people, and Rapp allows the audience to piece by piece see and feel the humanity and tenderness that should be in all of us.

Hello Little Human Female makes you laugh and think; it's absurd and down to earth at the same time. The production is one for all ages, and while the youngest may only go away with the funny image of Blork. For those old enough to remember several TV shows and songs from the 1960-80's, you will pick up the many references to other films, songs and artists. For everyone, young and old, the message is still there, waiting for the remembrance and the connection. Fun House Theatre and Film has served the community another hit and a summer fun event.

Fun House Theatre and Film at Plano Children's Theatre
1301 Custer Road, Plano, TX 75075

Final week through June 30th

Tuesday - Sunday at 7:30p, and Saturday-Sunday at 2:30pm)
Tickets are $8.00 each.

For info & tix:o or call the box office at 214-564-5015