Review: MEN ON BOATS at Theatre In The Round

Running thru June 2, 2024

By: May. 19, 2024
Review: MEN ON BOATS at Theatre In The Round
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Theatre in the Round’s newest production of the comedic retelling of the Powell expedition to chart the Green and Colorado Rivers is a muddled and tragically flat production. Originally produced in 2015, Men on Boats, tells the mostly unfortunate but at times comedic story of these men and their endeavors to survive their journey.

Utilizing a rising trend in the theater world, Men on Boats gender bends all of the roles, having the entire male cast of characters played by women. Although conceived with that decision in mind, in the hands of this cast, it just doesn’t work. The majority of the comedy comes at the expense of how a group of manly explorers would react to various obstacles they encounter (a one armed man climbing a cliff, a hardened explorer reacting to a rattle snake for the first time, and the group going over a waterfall, among other events). Unfortunately, those moments don’t carry the same comedic weight when it is a group of women.

Men on Boats bulls itself as a comedy but it should be classified as a dram-odey instead. The material it deals with is often heavy and tragic but the show focuses so heavily on the comedy aspects that it comes across as feeling very one note, often making light of their downfalls. Thus forcing the audience to give up their ability to sympathize with the characters when they are dealt a debilitating blow and instead driven to releasing uncomfortable giggles because they were played for laughs, making the truly comedic moments of the show less impactful.

Among the cast of ten women, the major standout was Lois Estell who truly stole every interaction she was apart of. Magnetic and hilarious, Estell drew on her physical comedy just as much as her wild accents that she dons throughout the show. Although the remainder of the cast soldiers through, they simply can’t keep up to Estell’s prowess.

Staging a show that takes place on a river can prove  a difficult feat when in the round because the audience is never given enough of a change in the setting of the story to convey their movement but Theatre in the Round does their best by moving the actors around the theater, sometimes behind sections of the audience. A viable option but it forces some of the crowd to miss each location, thus tempering the experience.

Theatre in the Round’s Men On Boats unfortunately feels very meta at times, a boat going down and taking the crew (and audience) with it.


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