BWW Special Feature: 99 and Under the Radar; An Indie Trailblazer
Welcome to 99 AND UNDER THE RADAR: A LOOK AT INDIE THEATER'S MOVERS AND SHAKERS, BroadwayWorld's new weekly series that showcases standout productions and production companies from the independent theater scene in New York City. Each week, independent producer Michael Roderick will be discussing the latest goings on in the theatrical wings, highlighting those with potentially bright futures.
This Week's Topic: An Indie Trailblazer
It's pretty easy in this day and age to make the argument that it has all been done and that no one is going to do anything in the Indie community that is really going to shock, delight, or surprise, but every once and a while, there are shows that counter this argument. The show being covered this week is truly trail blazing as it take on topics that haven't been covered in the theatrical community before, and tackle those topics with a very high level of skill.
That show is Hack!: An I.T. Spaghetti Western which is part of The Brick's "Too Soon" festival. If Quentin Tarantino were to direct his own version of Office Space, it may come close to the level of comic firepower that is produced from this spot-on comedy by the incredibly talented Crystal Skillman. Skillman effortlessly weaves the archetypes of the Spaghetti Western into the world of the office. In this case, the office is a Venture Capital firm where all of the tech geeks are in the middle of a series of lay-offs. They discover that someone has hacked into the computer system and that the hack is one of their own. The story then spins into a hilarious whodunnit as these nerds pretend to be bad boys and find the culprit amongst a myriad of wacky characters. The show is directed by John Hurly who has obviously spent a great deal of time researching geek classics as his staging recalls more than a few moments from classic sci-fi action films. Hurley's work in the comic genre is something spectacular to watch. In one sitting, his staging draws on Commedia techniques, deftly timed spit-takes, and forced perspective. The way entrances and exits have been re-imagined to humorous effect are worth the price of admission, but the audience gets so much more in this quick 70 minute joy ride through foolishness.
Skillman delivers a narrative that gives a tongue in cheek nod to films like War Games, Star Wars, Kill Bill, Jaws, and others with rapid fire one-liners and tech stereotypes. She does this all while crafting a clever 5 part story wrapped tightly in the conceit of a DVD series. Think 24. What's also incredibly refreshing is the performers commitment to the style of the piece itself and the brilliant character work that comes as a result. Joseph Mathers as the gritty "gunslinger" Cal, aggravates his voice and smolders on and off stage while being chased by his equally gritty cop brother played with the same intensity by the equally commited Mark Souza. It's amazing how neither of these two waver in this portrayal even while having water spit in their faces, but it's just a testament to how strong the material and the direction are. Neimah Djourabchi's character Dash moves about the stage with a cartoon-like quality jumping from Miley Cyrus dance number (Yep, that's right) to full on ninja battle with fights cleverly staged by Mr. Mathers himself. Last in our main character list is C.L. Weatherstone who as the character of Jay delivers some of the funniest lines in the show with a completely straight face. The biggest treat comes in the rogues gallery of characters who interact with this team. The soldier, a ten year old foul-mouth hacker who loves Beanie Babies and Miley Cyrus, is played with wit and boundless energy by Kate Kenney, Hoity Toity, an old professor turned super villain, is played with a great accent and delightful silliness by Benjamin Ellis Fine, Erica the love interest of Dash, is played with great comedic timing by Felicia Hudson, and the cast is rounded out with cameos by Nick Monroy (A crazed Apple store employee), Lauren Schroeder (Jay's love interest and potential super villain?), and Alisha Spielmann (Cal's wife who appears in a sequence very similar to Bobby Strong's mother in Urinetown) This is a show not to be missed. For more info and to get tickets before they disappear, go here.
Indie Theatre needs more trail blazers like Skillman and Hurley they are certainly ones to watch as they ride off into the sunset.
Read more of Michael's insights at www.oneproducerinthecity.typepad.com.