Playwright: Graham Farrow
Company: Springs Ensemble Theatre
Venue: Springs Ensemble Theatre, 1903 East Cache La Poudre Street, Colorado Springs, CO, 80909.
Running Time: 90 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).
Date of Performance: Friday, October 17, 2014
This review contains adult subjects, adult language, profanity, and possible spoilers. The profanity is not meant to be shocking or offensive. Rather, it is to demonstrate and reinforce the tone of the script.
Rattlesnakes starts with a bang. No. Make that a BIG bang. Three masked thugs ambush gigolo Robert McQueen (Oscar Robinson) in a seedy motel room. The stage quickly descends into total chaos, as the three goons proceed to beat the crap out of McQueen. They tie him to a chair and gag him, and proceed to begin the questions: "are you fucking our wives?"
All three of them already know the answer. Of course he's fucking their wives. That's what he does. It's a business...his business. He has to feed his wife and kids and pay the rent.
To say that this first scene grabs your attention is to seriously understate the obvious. There is absolutely no one in the audience who isn't totally engaged as the script turns from chaos into a taut drama about the reality and the fantasies in our relationships. Farrow's script cleverly outlines the faults, the flaws, and the secrets men and women try to hide from each other. For Farrow, it's a toxic brew that, if exposed, can only result in more chaos.
"More chaos" is exactly where these desperate and depraved characters take us. Not to give away the story, but Rattlesnakes climaxes with as much chaos as it displays in the opening scene. It's a chaos sandwich, if you will, with a lot of dramatic meat and colorful condiments in the middle. It's a powerful script, and for the audience, a real punch in the gut.
Director Steve Emily has put together a suitably seedy motel room set for the action to play out. No seat is more than a dozen or so feet from the stage, but Emily has choreographed the violence so well that even at close range it looks and feels real. With some help from Dialect Coach Jillmarie Peterson, his cast comes off as truly venomous "rattlesnakes" disguised as genuinely British working class folks.
|Oscar Robertson (Robert)|
Oscar Robinson (Robert McQueen) is the hapless, helpless boy toy gigolo at the center of the action, and he is marvelous; like a Timex, he takes a beating and keeps on ticking. His McQueen is a tough guy in a desperate situation, and he fights back with everything he has: secrets. He knows these goons, through their wives. He knows their secrets, and he knows how to leverage those secrets for his own survival.
His tormenters (Dylan Mosley as Ritchie, Jonathan Andujar as Jamie, and Kyle Urban as Jed) are merciless but foolish. They want revenge, but they also want answers to the central question: why would their wives be fucking a lowlife prostitute? It turns out that they can't actually handle those answers.
|Dylan Mosley (Richie)|
Mosley is the central goon, if you will, and he is probably the wisest of the three antagonists. He listens with disbelief to the improbably frightening story McQueen tells him about his wife Shelly (LeAnne Carruth). His wife could not possibly be the dominant, bitchy, voracious vixen stalker McQueen describes. Mosley is not just skeptical; he's incredulous. He cannot process that his wife is the woman McQueen is describing. It would be a colossal spoiler to say more; you'll have to buy a ticket to see whether Shelly is the wife Ritchie knows or the stalker McQueen describes.
|LeAnne Carruth (Shelly)|
LeAnne Carruth (Shelly) doesn't appear until the middle of the second act, but she steals the show. She quickly establishes who she really is, and spills out her secrets to us. It's a very impressive performance, one that is both sexy and frightening. Needless to say, "sexy and frightening" are a volatile mix in a woman, and Carruth's performance makes the ensuing chaos as real as it is inevitable.
Rattlesnakes is one of those rare dramas that doesn't require you to sort out the good guys and the bad guys. There are no good guys. The script is a pretty cynical sketch of how totally empty our lives are, and how those lives can be destroyed by contact with the truth. Although the script is somewhat contrived, I can't disagree with the central premise: we all have secrets. We all risk being found out, and we all risk the potentially catastrophic consequences of those secrets.
Farrow offers no solution, no escape, from the truth. Like matter contacting antimatter, all is utterly destroyed when the truth comes out.
I fear he may be right.
|Kyle Urban (Jed)|
This play contains explicit sexual language, profanity, adult situations, graphic violence, and gunfire. Not recommended for those under 16 years old.
This show closes on October 26, 2014.
|Jonathan Andujar (Jamie)|
Pre or post show dining suggestion:
There aren't any restaurants near the theater, so plan on about a 10-15 minute drive from downtown if you're dining before or after the show. Phantom Canyon Brewery, the oldest (1993) brewpub in Colorado Springs. is located at 2 East Pikes Peak, across the street from the Antler's Hotel. There is on street parking, and some paid lots nearby. The beers are excellent (yes, there are some seasonable brews), and the food is reliably good pub grub. My favorite: the fish and chips.
Photo Credits: Springs Ensemble Theatre
Director/Producer: Steve Emily
Scenic Designer: June Scott Barfield
Technical Director: Mike Miller
Co-Producers: Keri Poilakoff, Jillmarie Peterson
Lighting Design: Jenny Maloney
Sound Design: David Plambeck, Max Ferfuson
Costume Design//Dialect Coach: Jillmarie Peterson
Robert McQueen: Oscar Robinson
Richie Hanson: Dylan Mosley
Shelly Hanson: LeAnne Carrouth
Jamie Jarrett: Jonathan Andujar
Jed Ellis: Kyle Urban