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Pay What You Can Theatre FTW!

31 Mar

It’s been a theatre-heavy week here at CakeIn15 HQ. Over the weekend we caught two shows that had opened while we were down in Austin and just closed, so if you missed them, you missed them, but they were both top-notch and in a moment of scene synchronicity, both pieces of physical built around live music. Four Humors Theater ran with The Age of Wordsworth at the Southern, a punk-influenced telling of myths, tall-tales and real history around the life of Romantic poet William Wordsworth that had multiple cast members portraying the poet, a Frankenstein poem and their fair share of hilarious moments, as to be expected from the Four Humors crew. The whole cast Age of Wordsworth broke up the scenes by retreating to the side of the stage to be the band, while over at the newly re-vamped Loring Theater, the band Tree Party provided the soundtrack for Live Action Set‘s 7 Shot Symphony. 7 Shot Symphony took a number of ancient myths- Odin, Gilgamesh, Anansi spider, Orpheus and the swordmakers Maramasa & Masamune- and spun them into a spaghetti western, a cinematic foil that gave the versatile cast chances to use their bodies for close-ups and panoramic shots, creating a whole world using only their bodies which was impressive and intimate all at once.

On Wednesday, Pillsbury House Theatre‘s Broke-ology was on tap, a show that virtually every critic in town has already praised and told you to go to see, and we won’t tell you any differently. You have no excuse either, as every show is Pay-What-You-Can. The narrative is essentially familiar- a father seeks to keep the peace between his two sons- but that doesn’t stop it from being fresh and moving, carried all the way by superb acting. As the aging father William King, actor James Craven is a heavyweight winning a prizefight. Every moment of frustration, anger, desolation, love and tenderness from the character is imbued in Craven’s cracking yet powerful voice, in his affecting physical precision and the enormous amount of pathos he projects. Sonja Parks, who has only three short scenes as the mother Sonia (her character is deceased for most of the setting of the play) is radiant, an emotional core that resonates throughout her sons’ conflicts and although those sons are pulled from familiar tropes- the studious, upwardly mobile Malcolm (Darius Dotch) and the bombastic father-to-be Ennis (Mikell Sapp)- the chemistry between Dotch and Sapp make for fireworks. As Malcolm jokes lamely in the show about a girl he met at college, they have chemistry together. “Broke-ology”, as it is presented in the play, is “The study of 1. Being broke. 2. Staying alive despite your brokeness.” With the hard realism of the play, that challenge rings all too familiar and is moved, if not transcended by love. Broke-ology runs through April 10, and is worth every penny you want to give them.

On the entire opposite end of the theatre spectrum is Lamb Lays with Lion‘s Feminine Venom, which opened tonight at an undisclosed location around Nick & Eddie’s Bar & Restaurant. By way of full disclosure, I (c.a.s.) was a founding member of the LLwL company several years ago, have worked with them several times since and am friends with most of the cast of this production. I didn’t have anything to do with the creation of Feminine Venom and the fact that I know these people doesn’t stop me from wanting to talk up their work, especially when it is as brave and fierce as this production. With text taken entirely from B-movies about women in prison, Feminine Venom manages to be both shocking and transfixing, careening between horrifying and hilarious. The six women in the cast grab ahold of the tropes of those movies; the fast-talking hard cons, the ingenue new inmates, crass mouths, shower scenes, prison escapes, stories of hard men, and then throttle any passive titillation or docile sexuality out of them. When you are warned at the top of the show that you will be ejected for photography, touching the performers or touching yourself, it is deadly serious, because a LLwL production is a study in sustained awkwardness and shattered expectations. If Broke-ology moves through recognition, Feminine Venom explodes past familiarity. With a Pay-What-You-Feel sliding scale of $5-$20 and shows through this weekend and next, do yourself a favor and RSVP to femininevenomreservations@gmail.com to shake your foundations.

At a time when so many in the arts are struggling to make ends meet, and big ticket shows and concerts are rising in price so that established artists can make up the numbers, here are two shows that deserve support, and even more because they are making their work as open as they can to an audience. Pay-What-You-Can, Pay-What-You-Feel, feel the stories and let them move you, remember the power of bodies in space together and yes we can.

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