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BWW Review: Jewel Box Swoops in with THE VULTURES

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The Vultures at Jewel Box runs through June 20th.

BWW Review: Jewel Box Swoops in with THE VULTURES

The Vultures by Mark A. Ridge is a comedic family drama, a murder mystery, and a love story all in one. Jewel Box presents this ensemble piece through June. The Vultures resembles a dinner theatre romp, complete with an unexpected love triangle and a mysterious disappearance. Director Karalyn Merritt has assembled a group of players that work well together and have comedic chemistry. This robust play is presented in three acts, with two intermissions, and they're needed. The piece is heavy with dialogue and complicated in a way that only families can be.

The twenty-year anniversary of eccentric millionaire Simon West's death brings his living relatives to his dark and mysterious Estate. The heir to this Estate is finally going to be revealed, per the late West's request, and the family members are all vying for the chance to become rich overnight. Revelations come out, as they tend to do when families get together. Drama, mystery, and murder culminate into a wild and fun night of theatre.

Teri Hood is businesslike and emotionless as the head housekeeper Talbot. Hood employs a wonderful Russian accent that elevates the entire performance, making her stern showing all the more humorous. David Patterson is subtle and sophisticated as Mr. Crosby. Reading the will and having a few drinks, his character takes the sharpest turn of them all.

The chemistry between David Burkhart as Hunter and Cam Taylor as Paul is palpable. These two absolutely save the evening with their cute banter and constant flirting. The Vultures could easily be dull. It's long and wordy, and (almost) all the action is in the dialogue. Taylor and Burkhart create a spark in the air and enliven the whole show. Patrons find themselves on the edges of their seats when the two are on stage alone, just hoping that the scene will never end.

James Coplen is smooth and enigmatic as Harrison Blythe. He's mysterious and coy. Coplen is growing into a mature and dynamic performer, and it's just wonderful to see him on stage again. Renni Anthony Magee is calculating and charming as Charles Willard. Meredith Harrison as Ashley and Lana Henson as Mary Roberts have banter of their own kind, and it verges on bickering more than once. Harrison plays to the happy and positive side, while Henson leans toward negativity and criticism. Henson's line delivery is spot on for her character, even if it seems a little off-putting in its cruelty. Harrison as Ashley takes the insults well, never losing her smile or upbeat demeanor. She's truly enjoyable and she makes the most of every situation.

A standout performance is given by Robert Mills as Reinhart. Mills is wild and untamed, shouting and running around the performance area with reckless abandon. Mills has the energy and the aura to bring the entire stage to life, causing uproarious laughter and mildly confused giggles to erupt every time his character unexpectedly appears.

Larry Harris makes a lovely appearance as Dr. Avery, rounding out the cast and bringing a surprise twist of his own to the story.

There is solid comedy throughout, and the actors all have comedic timing and lively chemistry with each other. Unfortunately, the lighthearted and enjoyable comedic moments are often laced with tacky homophobic jokes and lowbrow slut shaming. A quick glance at the playbill reveals that this play is not an adaptation of some 1970s comical farce, but is an award winner from 2018. The playwright needs a lesson in more tactful humor. Likewise, it's off-putting that a theatre that touts a safe space, complete with a rainbow flag on the door, would produce a play with so many offensive comments. During Pride month, no less. The theatre is for everyone. Full stop. Shaming isn't funny. Neither is homophobia. All of us, as a theatre community, need to do better.

These moments should've been edited from the original to provide a safer space for audiences. The program has a warning label about strobe lights and loud sound effects, but no mention is made of possible emotional triggers.

The Vultures is not a perfect play, but the cast works in nearly perfect unison, creating magical moments for patrons. The cast works hard and keeps up through two and a half solid hours of dialogue and constant flow of movement to create a robust theatre-going experience. With some minor edits in place, this play would be an easier experience for ALL who walk through the doors.

The Vultures runs until June 20th, 2021 at Jewel Box Theatre. For tickets and more info, visit jewelboxokc.com.


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