Curious Theatre presents the regional premiere of the hilarious comedy Becky Shaw, playing now through April 14th. A blind date takes a dark turn in this wickedly funny comedy; deviant and hilarious behavior ensues after a newly married couple fixes up their romantically challenged friend Max with a mysterious co-worker, Becky Shaw. From their first date, which includes a gun, $200, and a visit to the police station, this collection of social misfits continue to surprise us and themselves, in a tale of slippery slopes and thrilling suspense that asks: what do we owe the people we love – or the strangers who land on our doorstep?
This show has the cutting wit that I so enjoy and almost literally had me on the floor with laughter. The script is refreshing and raw, with a "take no prisoners" edge and real-people dialogue. ("There are times when lying is the most human thing that you can do!") We open in a hotel room as Suzanna and her adopted brother, Max, are trying to review their late father’s finances with their mother, who is in full-blown denial. After a big plot twist, we jump forward a year to see Suzanna happily married to Andrew and still dealing with her unpredictable family. Suzanna and Andrew innocently set up Max on a blind date with Andrew's coworker, Becky Shaw. It is the classic awkward and uncomfortable first date where anything that can go wrong does go wrong. Later, we find out just how wrong it went, in a scene that played on the funny bones of our particular audience to such an extent I thought someone might pull a Marie Osmond. It’s a classic push/pull – Becky grasps, trying to cling like a baby orangutan, as Max puts on his asshole hat and tries to flee. Suzanna and Andrew struggle with keeping the peace in the eye of the storm, which ultimately causes a rift between them. The devilishly funny script by Obie Award winner Gina Gionfriddo digs its claws in from the start and doesn’t let go. Trying to figure out what’s going to happen next is like trying to predict what kind of costume Our Lady of Gaga is going to show up in at the Grammy’s. There are twists and turns, topsy-turvy wobbles, and "oh, no they didn't!" moments, but in the end things evolve and resolve and a perfect "will they or won't they?" scenario is poised.
Karen Slack in the title role is… weird. And funny and endearing and… weird. The subtle eccentricities Slack brings to her character are flat-out hilarious, but also speak to a cunning shrewdness – not only as far as character development (did I mention Becky is weird?), but also as a conscious performance move on Slack’s part. Quirky, to say the least. Bill Hahn as her unfortunate date, Max, is the definition of self-serving asshole. I think Hahn probably spent many hours poring over the nonverbal communication chapter in the How to Be a Successful Dick Handbook – his facial expressions alone exude the disdain only an arrogant tool could feel toward a woman. In other words, well done, Mr. Hahn! Billie McBride as the no-nonsense mother swimming around in a river of denial is stellar and comical, anchoring the chaotic calamity characters around her. Rachel Fowler and John Jurcheck (as the matrimonial duo of Suzanna and Andrew who seem perpetually stuck in familial quicksand) have an uncanny sense of comedic timing, ala Lucy and Ricky. Their chemistry is truly fun to behold. This entire ensemble, under the artistic direction of Curious Theatre’s own Chip Walton, works like a well-oiled machine – all of the parts move really well together, and all of the creaks and breakdowns are completely intentional and entertaining.
The set, by designer Tina Anderson, is perfect in its disorderliness – very much an "industrial meets art deco" motif – but this show is really all about the incorporation of props into the everyday bizarre interactions of these characters. With everything going on onstage, major kudos need to go out to stage manager Claudia Carson and her stagehands for seamless scene transitions. The jazz music (by sound designer Jason Ducat) adds a frenetic feel to the play, enhancing the insanity and unpredictable predicaments The Players find themselves in.