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BWW Review: Cosplay and Camaraderie Are Magic at Dutch Kills Theater Company's THE ANTELOPE PARTY


Playing through November 21st at The Wild Project

BWW Review: Cosplay and Camaraderie Are Magic at Dutch Kills Theater Company's THE ANTELOPE PARTY
Quinn Franzen, Will Dagger, Lindsley Howard,
Edward Mawere, Caitlin Morris

Brony-bonded and fully invested in cosplay camaraderie, the diverse ensemble of actors in Dutch Kills Theater Company's THE ANTELOPE PARTY at The Wild Project take playwright Eric John Meyer's prescient character-driven dramedy on a wild ride.

A Brony (bro + pony) is an adult fan of the look and philosophy of the children's cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which has flourished through four iterations since the franchise debuted in the 1980s. The world of Bronies is more than a look, lingo, collectibles and costumes; it's a culture thriving as a massive online presence as well as IRL via Meetup groups, annual conventions called Bronycons, charity fundraisers, and other philanthropic community endeavors. Haters gonna hate, yet Bronies hang tight.

Self-aware, sincere, and dedicated to respecting individuals in service of the group, the five millennial Bronies and Pegasisters in this play form a Circle of Friendship ("a place of Joy and Mutual Appreciation") to be seen and heard, speak their minds freely, and listen with their Pony Ears without judgment. Rolling a die, they engage in a weekly ongoing adventure with very strict rules.

The entire cast is solid, but the awkwardly ambitious Shawn (Will Dagger) earns extra laughs and respect in his winning ensemble of pink leather chaps, a fedora and affirmations: "Just thinking about that transition from BMLP-that's Before My Little Pony-to AMFE-After My First Episode-it made me realize that things transformed all over again when I met you guys. I didn't know how to sew a costume before I met you guys. I'd never done a role-playing game. And then all of a sudden it wasn't a room in my head anymore, it was a room-like, a real room. Or, this room, I guess. And I don't think I say enough how much that means to me."

What's in a name? Rainbow Dash, Twilight Sparkle, Fluttershy, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie -- the play's characters take their roles and roleplaying seriously. Consider the 5'10" and broad-shouldered Ben (Edward Mawere), who strokes the strands of his bright Brony mane with a cool nonchalance: "There's a Pony out there for every Pony. And you can always trust a Pony."

Or can you? The Brony herd's harmony is disrupted by the arrival of Jean Simmons (Anna Ishida), a conspiracy theorist who reminds the group that the outside world can expose an inside job. Act I introduces us to the Bronies and Pegasisters and what makes them so awesome; Act II reveals how that awesomeness can be threatened by external factions/fascism.

BWW Review: Cosplay and Camaraderie Are Magic at Dutch Kills Theater Company's THE ANTELOPE PARTY
Anna Ishida, Edward Mawere

Scenic designer Yu-Husuan Chen and Properties designer Brian Bernhard add bright Brony-worthy flourishes to an otherwise drab oak-paneled western Pennsylvania apartment: gold stars, My Little Pony art, and some very organized MLP merchandise. Costumes by Kate Fry are a mane-to-hoof menagerie of bright colors and unicorn-horn Crocs.

Director Jess Chayes and team deserve a round of Brohooves for delivering this dystopian drama dressed up in eye-popping costumes. THE ANTELOPE PARTY is a timely hot take on unity, community, and cosplay-in-a-play. In the words of Shawn, "Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye."

Performances of THE ANTELOPE PARTY from Dutch Kills Theater Company run through November 21, 2021, at The Wild Project, 195 E. 3rd St. Tickets are available at The Antelope Party.

Photos: Bjorn Bolinder

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