ORIGINAL MANby Matthew Posey
Ochre House Theater
Directed by Matthew Posey
Musical Director: Justin Locklear
Set Design: Matthew Posey
Costume Design: Samantha Rodriguez
Props Design: Mitchell Parrack
Lighting Design: Kevin Grammer
Puppet Design: Justin Locklear
State Manager: Korey Parker
Joe: Marcus Stimac
Old Joe: Matthew Posey
Percy Neville: Carla Parker
Lenny: Justin Locklear
RayRay: Darren McElroy
Cory: Chris Sykes
Mr. Butterfield: Christian Taylor
Tilly: Quinn Coffman
Shawnee: Monét Lerner
Aaron Gonzales, Bass
Trey Pendergrass, Drums
Justin Locklear, Guitar
Kate Fisher, Keyboard
Reviewed Performance: 10/28/2017
Reviewed by Elaine Plybon, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
When I received the assignment to review at Ochre House again, I experienced excited anticipation of seeing another fine production, but at the same time, was a little apprehensive about whether anything could live up to what I had seen the first time I was there.
Now that I have you sitting on the edge of your seat, wondering which of those emotions were catered to the evening I sat in the audience of Original Man, I have to say – I definitely wasn’t disappointed. This, too, was a truly superlative experience in every way.
Writer and Director, Matthew Posey, has spun a tale that provides a brief glimpse into the life of a young man who is struggling to live up to his father’s expectations. Set in 1960s England, the action is sometimes light, often dark, and everything necessary to bring the audience into the lives of the characters.
Set design by Matthew Posey was clever and efficient. Ochre House Theater is an intimate venue, with few seats and a stage that seems more like a view through a window than a tall proscenium. This set gave the audience an opportunity to window-peek into the flat of Old Joe and his son, Joe. A kitchen table sits center stage with a refrigerator and stove stage right. The appliances were connected to a short wall with a window over the sink, which was delightfully rolled to face the audience when the occasion called for screaming at the neighbors. The first such time was an introduction to the expert acting that would be coming, with Old Joe, portrayed by Matthew Posey and Joe, played by Marcus Stimac smoothly transitioning from an argument with each other to a well-coordinated verbal assault on the neighborhood. The set was dressed with period furniture and décor, as well as period labels on beer bottles and other items. The overall effect was spot-on and truly transported the actors back to the 60s.
Costume design by Samantha Rodriguez was exemplary. Knitted sweaters in drab green, plaid mod dresses, miniskirts and go-go boots abounded, and really were an impressive detail. Hairstyles complemented the attire, and Stimac’s mutton-chop sideburns rounded out his look.
Music was a key ingredient for this play, and was interestingly composed by the ensemble. Even though none of the songs were previously published, they were all quite nice to listen to, and I found myself wishing I could purchase a soundtrack. All were period pieces, and reminiscent of the kind of music that influenced young Joe. Each song was performed as a thought or daydream of the character performing it, which gave insight into what each was wrestling with in their lives.
The first musical piece, “Pocket Full of Rain” was exceptionally well-designed. The entire ensemble was showcased in this bluesy rendition.
The performance of “I Don’t Have Ta” by Darren McElroy in the role of RayRay was fun and catchy, and reprised at the end of the evening. It was reminiscent of Ray Charles’ music.
“Razor’s Edge”, performed by Quinn Coffman as Tilly, the troubled and suicidal friend of Joe, was poignant and culminated in a surreal dream sequence involving a talking stove. This entire scene was well-done, portraying the dark pull of suicide and a somewhat lighthearted view of recreational drug use all at the same time.
Each piece had its own personality, and “Mr. Butterfield”, sung by Christian Taylor in the role of, you guessed it, Mr. Butterfield, was fun and full of characterization.
Throughout the evening, I thoroughly enjoyed the vocal performances of Marcus Stimac as he channeled Joe Cocker right down to the affected clutching of his hand and somewhat frenzied toss of the head. Music seemingly beat strongly through every fiber in his body and it was evident that Stimac put a great deal of time and effort into developing his portrayal of Joe.
Aside from Stimac, the strongest vocal of the evening came from a member of the ensemble, Monét Lerner. The song, “As If It’s As I Can”, was beautifully written, and Lerner’s powerful voice showed a range and quality that one expects from much larger venues.
If this had been an evening of just the music, I would have been extremely happy with spending my time listening to the live band and original music, but I was also treated to solid performances by the entire cast.
Stimac was consistently spot-on as he portrayed young Joe. The turmoil and desire of his character played across his face as if his muscles were involuntarily playing the role. With seamless transitions, Stimac delivered a strong performance as a son trying desperately to please his father while also trying to change his lot in life, all while believing at the core of his being that there was no hope. This role takes a seasoned and talented actor and Stimac fit the bill.
Matthew Posey, as Old Joe, the father, was also stunning to watch. Posey’s furrowed brow and booming voice served the purpose of depicting a character I didn’t care to like, which was exactly as called for.
In the role of Lenny, Justin Locklear portrayed a troubled, gentle soul. With a demeanor that flashed from calm to anxious at times, Locklear delivered a believable performance. His skills as a guitarist complemented the music pieces in the evening.
Ochre House Theater is a place where you will be treated like an old friend, you will sit in a small theater feeling like a voyeur as you watch what unfolds before you, and you will pat yourself on the back for being smart enough to purchase a ticket. I strongly suggest you get your ticket to see Original Man, then sit back and enjoy the experience.
Ochre House Theater
825 Exposition Avenue
Dallas, Texas 75226
Plays through November 18th
Wednesday through Saturday at 8:15 p.m. *
Tickets are $17 (Seniors and students $12)
*There will be a pay-what-you-can performance Monday, November 6
Half of the box office proceeds on Saturday, November 4 will be donated to “Undoes”: a relief fund benefitting survivors of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
For information and to purchase tickets, visit www.ochrehousetheater.org or call the box office at 214-826-6273.