BWW Review: YEAR OF THE ROOSTER is a Riotous Funny Black Comedy

"One day I will destroy the sun" says the angry 8-month-old gamecock of the title in Capital T Theatre's current production of Eric Dufault's riotously funny black comedy, YEAR OF THE ROOSTER, now playing at the Hyde Park Theatre. "I think I could kill a cow if I put my mind to it," Odysseus Rex rages. "I think I could kill a car. A house." Now there's ambition. As a matter of fact, ambition is an underlying theme of Dufault's play. Loser Gil Pepper's ambition to finally succeed at something, Odysseus Rex's ambition to one day destroy the sun, local tycoon Dickie Thimble's ambition to stay on top of the cockfighting championship and Gil's teenage manager's ambition to someday run all the McDonald's in America. Without ever becoming preachy, Dufault has a lot to say about what we do to each other and to animals as well as a good deal to say about bullying.

Odysseus Rex, or Odie, as he's nicknamed, is played with fiery intensity by Jason Liebrecht. Liebrecht stalks the stage with explosive righteous energy, ready to take on the universe: "Come on now, Sun," he says in one of several hilarious declarations of war, "get your ass up and get ready for your beating!"

Gil Pepper, played by Jason Newman, gets Odie ready to fight by conditioning him with combat practice, regular injections of steroids and a cannibalistic diet of McNuggets. Newman delivers a brilliant portrait of a man mired in mediocrity. Odie is Gil's ticket out. A cashier at McDonald's in Oklahoma, he lives with his homebound mom (Lana Dieterich) and is tormented by his 19-year-old manager (Julia Bauer). Also tormenting Gil is local jerky tycoon Dickie Thimble (Kenneth Wayne Bradley), a blowhard with a champion rooster named Bat-Dolphin.

Lana Dieterich gives a beautifully understated performance as Gil's mother, Lou. She has moments in this show that are black comedy gold. Julia Bauer is also excellent as Gil's boss Philipa, hitting all the right notes in her portrayal of the supervisor from Hell.

As beef jerky tycoon and cockfighting enthusiast Dickie Thimble, Kenneth Wayne Bradley is excellent. There's a surprise in his performance that I don't want to spoil for you, but it had me in tears, I was laughing so hard. There is a showdown in the offing, and boy, does it ever deliver.

Director and Scenic Designer Mark Pickell has a definite gift for black comedy and that gift is now on electrifying display in the Austin Premiere of this mythical black comedy about love, underdogs, and cockfighting. He keeps the evening moving at a brisk pace and his scenic design is impressive in both it's seediness and multi-purpose functionality.

Lowell Bartholomee's sound design is exceptional and detailed and I found his use of music from the Spaghetti Western genre to be inspired. Patrick Anthony's lighting design is also exceptional in setting multiple locales and establishing mood.

It's been a while since I laughed this hard in a theatre. The sharp performances given by this five person ensemble gleam, and supported by terrific tech, they make YEAR OF THE ROOSTER a theatrical event you don't want to miss. My highest recommendation goes out to YEAR OF THE ROOSTER!

YEAR OF THE ROOSTER: by Eric Dufault

Running time: 2 hours with one intermission.

YEAR OF THE ROOSTER, produced by Capital T Theatre, plays Hyde Park Theatre (511 W43rd St) now thru September 19. Performances are Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 pm. Reserved Seating $20. Preferred Seating $30. Reservations

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From This Author Frank Benge