BWW Review: Sultry and Gripping A HAND OF TALONS from Pork Filled Productions

Hand of Talons
Sean Schroeder, Jenn Ruzumna and
Stephanie Kim-Bryan in A Hand of Talons
Photo credit: Joe Iano

It's always fun to take a trip back to New Providence providing you can avoid getting on the bad side of the Yao family. Now before you go looking for this vacation spot on some travel website, let me tell you it's not a real place but the fantastical steampunk world created by author Maggie Lee. And if you were lucky enough to catch her pervious melodramatic serial plays "The Clockwork Professor" and "The Tumbleweed Zephyr" then you already know how much fun a visit to New Providence is and how much you need to catch the third installment, "A Hand of Talons" currently playing at Theatre Off Jackson. Same fun, same gorgeous costumes, same suspense and intrigue. It's just always a good time.

Now if you're all worried that you won't be able to step into a New Providence show without seeing the other two, don't fret. Yes, they all have some crossover elements but nothing that makes one necessary for the other to make sense. And in this case we're dealing with a kind of a prequel so we're all starting from the beginning. In this prequel we meet the Yao clan of New Providence, siblings Wilhemina, Anders and Delphine (Stephanie Kim-Bryan, Sean Schroeder and Mariko Kita). With the passing of their Mother, Delphine has taken it upon herself to lead the clan in this area and try to keep the Elders in the east happy while Wilhemina runs her gambling house and Anders occupies himself with his latest scheme. But the Elders have sent someone to check in on the siblings' operation, the mysterious Kenzo (Tim Gagne). What do the Elders have in mind? What's Kenzo's motive? And can Wilhemina trust him as the two get closer?

Like I said, these are always fun. This one does take awhile to really get going as there's a lot of exposition, and reintroduction to the world we need to get through first but once the story gets going it takes off and director Amy Poisson knows how to keep it all upbeat and lively. And as usual the world is a feast for the eyes with it's fantastic set complete with a secret passage from Brandon Estrella and gorgeous costumes from Jocelyne Fowler.

Hand of Talons
Stephanie Kim-Bryan and Tim Gagne in
A Hand of Talons
Photo credit: Joe Iano

The cast looks to be having a ton of fun with the show but how could you not? Kim-Bryan is a delight as our heroine allowing the audience to really invest in her success. Schroeder and Kita are polar opposites in their character but both equally believable in their actions and intent. Gagne makes for a dashing and swoon worthy love interest with Ben Burris providing a wonderful counterpoint character as Wilhemina's long time friend who's obviously in love with her, making a wonderfully vibrant love triangle. Jenn Ruzumna and Kenna Kettrick make excellent foils for each other as the respective sidekicks for Wilhemina and Delphine. And Abhijeet Rane delivers so likable a character that his Act Two actions and dilemma all the more powerful.

So if you've seen the others or if you're new to New Providence you should do yourself a favor and pay a visit. It's always a good time and so with my three letter rating system I give "A Hand of Talons" a giddy childlike YAY. Just stay on the good side of the clan. They can get vicious.

"A Hand of Talons" from Pork Filled Productions performs at Theatre Off Jackson through May 21st. For tickets or information visit them online at www.porkfilled.com.


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