BWW Review: Rob Nash's HOLY CROSS SUCKS Both Hilarious and Heartwarming
HOLY CROSS SUCKS! is Rob Nash's solo show that is a combination of four earlier separate plays: Freshman Year Sucks!, Sophomore Slump, Junior Blues and Senioritis. All of these earlier plays made their premiere at The Vortex between 1997 and 2000. HOLY CROSS SUCKS! played Off-Broadway in New York in 2005 where it was the recipient of a top ten award from Time Out New York magazine. Based on Nash's time at a Jesuit high school in Texas, HOLY CROSS SUCKS! is a hilarious and heartwarming look back at the 1980's. By combining the four earlier plays into one work, Nash has created a touchingly funny coming of age story of three friends that is rich in detail and made even more memorable by Nash's lightning fast character changes. Nash plays a grand total of 29 characters in the course of two hours making each character distinctly different all the way down to body language in a performance that is frankly remarkable.
HOLY CROSS SUCKS! is the story of three misfit best friends as they struggle to find out who they are and where they fit in the world during that universally experienced trauma known as high school. Nash's play remembers with great insight and humor the dichotomies of adolescence. This is an unflinching look at both the beauty and the ugliness of the formative time of high school.
Directed by Tony Award Nominated Director Jeff Calhoun, Nash's play is a clever and nostalgic look back at both the trauma of being a high school student and pop culture. Calhoun has done a great job of staging Nash's taut and engaging script. While it might be easy to compare the work to the iconic films of John Hughes, the work is much deeper and ultimately more satisfying than those films...and those films also don't have the masterful storytelling of Nash as an asset.
Ann Marie Gordon provides a perfect backdrop for this tale with her clever school room set that is at a 90 degree angle echoing the off kilter mood that is the educational experience. Multiple chairs and desks hang behind Nash complete with crumpled papers and iconic detritus all frozen and seemingly defying gravity. Patrick Anthony's lighting enhances and subtly supports the action, as does the video design of Eliot Fischer, that rapidly and unobtrusively sets time and place using Gordon's set as a projection screen. Rounding out the excellent tech is David DeMaris' sound design that combines the music of the period with original lyrics to some of those tunes, arranged by DeMaris and Frank Burlington
I hope that Nash and The Vortex find a way to bring HOLY CROSS SUCKS! back for a return engagement as this is an exceptional evening of theatre starring an exceptionally talented actor at the top of his game. This is one production I'd like to see again. This engagement was filmed so hopefully there is a network showing somewhere in the future.
HOLY CROSS SUCKS! (A Comedy about the Tragedy of School) by Rob Nash
Running Time: Approximately Two Hours, including intermission
Production ran December 14 - December 17, 2017 at The Vortex (2307 Manor Road, Austin, TX, 78722).
Tickets: $35-$15 at www.vortexrep.org or 512-478-5282