Review: DROPPIN' JOHNS at B3 Theatre
Ilana Lydia's audacious new play, Droppin' Johns, is as shamelessly subversive, courageously adventurous and boldly resolute a piece of Feminist Fringe Theatre as you'll find, anywhere.
Half way through its short run at SIC Sense in Phoenix, Droppin' Johns is not for shrinking violets, and it's not for theatregoers seeking diversion and simple storytelling. It's funny and horrific, graphic, poetic, strange, and ultimately full to the brim with heart.
Lydia's direction is clear and sharp, and her masterful staging makes the most of the tiny storefront space. With fight choreography by Devon Mahon, the piece feels at once dangerously reckless and sculpted to a fine point. Droppin' Johns is unapologetic, gritty Metatheatre, and as savage a ride for the performers as it is for audience.
Juliet Rachel Wilkins plays our hero, Cat Girl, who dances along the top of the fence between "reality" and fiction, acknowledging and, at times, confronting the witness. We spend a lot of time feeling disoriented - is the actor lost and confused, or is it the character who's off-beam? Wilkins' role is grueling and non-stop throughout the nearly two and a half hour performance, and she meets it, with trepidation and the kind of bravery called for in the directive, "Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes." Through Lydia's powerful storytelling and fine directing, Wilkins' portrait focuses down to simple clarity during the play's final, heartbreaking moments.
Droppin' Johns has an astonishingly solid supporting cast. All members of the ensemble serve myriad functions and play multiple roles. My descriptions barely scratch the surface.
Caitlin Dhuse is sublime as the deceptively prim character "Questioning Element."
The always outstanding Cliff Williams is true to form throughout his arduous, consummate performance as "Rationalizing Element."
Devon Mahon, who never disappoints, plays with virtuosic aplomb "The Man," a mashup of antagonists including an old Eastern Block-style interrogator, various seedy and sundry "Johns" and the creepiest Prince Charming you'll ever meet.
Michael Sean LeSueur plays Alexandross - an author from another story who appears, lends some extremely practical advice and disappears - in a rather Kafka-light rendering. It was when Alexandross entered that this critic realized the whole thing felt like post-post-modern Aristophanes.
Megan Olsen is "The Woman," an array of complicated, quirky, wild and whirling characters. Olsen is lovely and young and can play old and weird and distorted and morph from one to the other at lightning speed. She's divine.
Droppin' Johns, running through July 22nd, is produced by B3 Theatre, presented at The SIC Sense Theatre, 1902-9 E. McDowell in Phoenix. Seating is extremely limited, so you'd best get your tickets NOW.