BWW Reviews: Capital T's PUNKPLAY is Strong and Subversive
Punk music and culture calls many terms to mind, but they are summed up by one overarching buzzword- subversive. The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, and more modern groups like Green Day seem anti-establishment by nature, which makes the nature of 'punkplay', Capital T's latest production, especially interesting, as it appears to subvert the subversive.
'punkplay' tells a loose story about Mickey and Duck, played by Chase Brewer and Nate Jackson respectively. The two relatively clean-cut, albeit mischievous teens discover the edge of punk music and dedicate their lives to becoming punk. Along the way they start a band, meet a collection of unique characters, and have a series of vignette-like sequences that range from quick and menial to extended, drug-addled dream sequences, set against the typical adolescent experiences such as dating, trouble with parents, and the desire to stand out while being a part of the crowd.
Mark Pickell has assembled a talented cast and has really pulled a lot out of them. There is a nice evolution of the character Mickey, from an affable, standard suburban teenage boy into a more vicious and electric young man, though one with a softer side he keeps dear. Nate Jackson smartly portrays Duck with a frenetic energy that covers his character's insecurities, with just enough insight to see that Duck is not a happy guy. Uyen-Anh Dang, David Higgins, and Rebecca Pearcy each get brief moments to distract us from our two central figures, and they each manage to steal scenes when they're on stage. Of particular note is the range and boldness of Pearcy, who goes from a soft-spoken French Canadian to a topless, Sexy Ronald Reagan (it makes sense, I promise). Though there were at times lulls in each actor's performance, the cast delivers solid portrayals of these oddball characters.
The design and technical aspects of the production were well-thought out and playful, but not without their problems. We begin the story in Mickey's room, which is covered with white paper. Throughout the play, the paper is torn down in a really creative choice by Pickell. That said, this choice led to problems with some transitions, and the lighting would occasionally flicker in a manner that left me unsure of whether it was a choice or an overloaded breaker. In fact, transitions were one of the larger distractions in the show. While some took much too long as the set was changed, others felt like quick edits in a film, which didn't translate as well on stage. The sound design was nice, and I was impressed in the complexity and how well-executed it was.
The heart of this show, however, lies in the script, which much like the design has ups and downs. One of the main drawbacks of the writing was that it would build momentum, giving out actors a wonderful energy and throughline, only to cut it out from under them with a change of tone, or introduction of characters. That in mind, the high points were very high indeed, allowing the audience to identify and reminisce about the experiences that Mickey and Duck go through. After all, this show at its core is about the changes and growth that come with maturity, our embrace of outlandish and ultimately temporal culturally significant movements that eventually fade away for most of us. At least, that's what I took away from the somewhat ambiguous ending. Though it was a bit confusing, I believe that this moment changes the play from one of a simple observation to counter-counter-culture, pointing out our youthful obsessions not with the sarcastic bite that one might expect, but with the eye-rolling regret that one might have looking back at high school photos in the yearbook. The ending was muddy, but Capital T has chosen an insightful, over-the-top show that, while not perfect, leaves you considering it for days after it ends.
'punkplay', produced by Capital T Theatre and performed at Hyde Park Theatre (511 W 43rd St, Austin 78751), runs Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 PM, now through June 21st. Tickets run from $20 - $30. For more information, please visit http://capitalt.org/wp/