BWW Reviews: TRIBES in Cincinnati
The Ensemble Theater took on the daunting task of performing Tribes by Nina Raine. Tribes tells the story of Billy, a deaf young adult, who moves back in with his hearing family. That plot already seems somewhat complicated but there are some surprising developments into Billy's life and then add the fact that he gets his first ever girlfriend and this play spirals completely out of control in the best way possible.
Tribes is the first Ensemble production not directed by D. Lynn Meyers and there was a definite tone shift between her and Tribes' Michael Evan Haney. The biggest difference being that Haney has a different way of handling dramatic moments. My favorite decision that Meyers makes when it comes to huge reveals or hyper emotional moments is that she pauses after the fact. Meaning that once the reveal is said or someone is done screaming or telling a story there is a moment for the audience and actors to recover from what just happened. Haney handles those types of moments by making them too long; instead of quickly getting to the point, the actors take beat after beat and it gets to point where I no longer care about what is coming because it took too long to get there.
And now the standard, what was good section. Kelly Mengelkoch as Sylvia was fantastic as usual. She was able to seem effortless in her signing and her emotional journey was the most fascinating to watch. She was the comic relief or she was the only sane character on stage or she was making you cry with the delivery of one line; her ability to do it all (and sometimes in the same scene) was incredible. Dale Dymkoski as Billy was very good. The first scene was my favorite and it was mostly because of him. His family is arguing about various topics over dinner and Dymkoski just sits there as if that is not happening; it was almost heart-breaking to watch. Barry Mulholland and Amy Warner as the parents were also good. Mulholland was too good at some points because I literally started to get so mad at his character for the ridiculous thoughts he was speaking out loud.
The not so good. Ryan Wesley Gilreath as Daniel had some struggles but it can't be said if they were completely his fault or if the writing played a part. Daniel's arc in the plot was at times very confusing and seemed out of place. I found myself asking if Daniel was just having a tough time/depressive spell or was actually mentally ill; you'll have to be the judge of that yourself.
Overall, this was a solid production. As always, the set was beautiful and this is a very intriguing topic for a play. You will definitely find yourself discussing your thoughts on deaf culture when you're leaving. Tribes is running through this weekend so get your tickets before it is too late.
Tribes is running at the Ensemble Theater through February 16 and is directed by Michael Evan Haney.
Photo Credit: Ryan Kurtz