BWW Review: DIRT - Too Calculated to Get Down and Dirty
The Rogue Machine Theatre/SRS Production Wing's West Coast premiere of Bryony Lavery's DIRT, a precautionary dissertation of the lethal hazards of commonplace chemicals humans come in contact with, benefits from its strong talented cast. Bravo to all the actors for their commitment to their respective roles, some requiring the tackling of reiterating endless laundry lists of chemical terminology. Directed at a smooth and fast clip by Ann Bronston, the two lead characters, however, come across as completely unsympathetic, with character traits/flaws as unappealing as their listings-heavy monologues.
Harper and Matt have been dating for a while now. But these two seem perfect for each other, as his attention to detail and her obsession to chemical ingredients would be off-putting to most. Mandy Levin embodies her deceased Harper as she narratives the events leading to her demise and after. Too bad Levin wasn't allowed to make her Harper more empathetic for the audience initially. Levin does grab her moment to shine as Harper near the play's end when as a being beyond, she talks to her mother in the room. Levin's Harper reveals the caring and real human emotions underneath all her previous (when alive) frantic cataloguings of paranoia.
Maia Danziger gives her role of Harper's mom May a pleasing mixture of warmth, maternal ego, and professorial smarts (on quantum physics). Danziger's May's too proud to reach out to her daughter when Harper doesn't return her important call. May wanted to tell Harper more about her place being burglarized. Now May's quite devastated at Harper's unexpected passing.
Mark McClain Wilson makes his Matt perfectly annoying with his seemingly total recall of numbers and quantities of mundane everyday matters. Matt waits for Harper to arrive at a bistro for their dinner date. She's late, as usual. With all the minutes added up Matt has had to wait for Harper to show up, he could and 'threatens to' take a long deserved vacation without her. It's that many minutes of waiting for Harper. These two also fight over who's to pay for dinner. How long have they been dating?
A complete breath of fresh air in the midst of all this toxicity arrives in the charismatic form of Ryan Walsh as the part-time waitress/struggling voice-over actress Elle. Walsh's Elle gets introduced while she's in the middle of a voice-over session where she's directed to repeat lines DIRT-ier; which she most seductively does. Walsh's Elle's so likeable. Walsh breaks the fourth wall (as all the others do) vividly and hysterically describing her every action in the routine, but very intriguing procedure of waiting on the dating couple. Walsh showcases her strong vocal chops and convincing British accent in the process. Very nice!
As Elle's go-to person for unloading her tough work and career problems, Jack Krizmanich presents a totally unexpected, laid-back portrayal of Guy, a Reiki therapist/former drug addict. Guy's first impression brings to mind a street thug, but (without change of costume) Krizmanich quickly convinces as a very zen healer.
Compliments to Hillary Bauman for her multi-use, wood-paneled set, which includes a small table , a velvet armchair and a toilet; easily morphing (without elaborate set changes), from Harper's apartment to May's lecture hall, from restaurant dining room to downstairs storage, from street corner to Guy's studio.
The cause of Harper's death does not get revealed until near the very end.