BWW Preview: THE BOONDAWGLE ESTATE Is a 30s Throwback of Farce, High Pants, and Fast Talkin'
DramaDogs is known for their "theater from the inside out" interpretation of dramatic work. Recent shows, such as Dance Me To The End of Love and Tales of Woo and Woe showed performers embracing physical transformations to inform character choices. These plays features moments of levity, but the driving force of the work was exploration of the human condition rather than comedy. This September, in an adventure to discover the more outlandish aspects of human relationships, DramaDogs presents The Boondawgle Estate, a giddy farce that meshes elements of classic cinema and vaudevillian performance to utilizes the company's body-centered style of theatre.
"DramaDogs is not really known for doing comedy," explains E. Bonnie Lewis, one of the founders of DramaDogs and the actress playing the role of Victoria Underhill in Boondawgle. "We want our audience to be joyfully surprised and titillated at our comedic offering."
After the death of Boondawgle patriarch, Edward, The Boondawgle Estate parades the eccentric members of the Boondawgle family through Edward's memorialization and the bequeathal of his estate. The play features recognizable bits and gags from classic vaudeville, and culminates in a slapstick extravaganza somewhere between You Can't Take It With You and an episode of "Scooby Doo." Lewis hopes that audiences will laugh uproariously at the on-stage shenanigans (including slap fights, hypochondriac melt-downs, and injuries from swinging doors), but also consider their own family dynamic and embrace and celebrate those relationships, regardless of dysfunction.
Written by Peter McDonough, The Boondawgle Estate was produced as a reading in January for PlayFest Santa Barbara, an annual event showcasing new theatrical works for the public to digest. The reading of Boondawgle was well received at PlayFest-audiences and actors alike had fun with the quick dialogue and outrageous situations. Yet the play's physical humor is unrepresented in a reading, so DramaDogs is mounting a fully realized production, in all its aunt-carrying, gender-bending, mystery-solving nonsense, at Center Stage.
The Boondawgle Estate is an homage to the cinema of the 30s and 40s, an era fascinating to the playwright. "I like to laugh, and I have a soft spot in my heart for that era-from straight comedies to farce and slapstick," says McDonough, who sums up the style of both the show and the era as "high pants and fast talkin'." Lewis described the play as "farce, farce, farce," and notes that the challenge for the performers is maintaining honest characterization amidst the ludicrous tomfoolery. It's a treasure-hunting story in which a letter hidden somewhere in the Boondawgle mansion gives location of the key to the safe deposit box containing Uncle Edward's will. Brothers Entrance and Exit Overhill (Josh Jenkins and Tyler X Koontz), along with Entrance's overwhelmed bride, Tess (Alyssa Hadfield), go on a secret sleuthing mission against the clock to find the letter and the key and the will before time runs out and the estate is given to a phony-baloney society for the preservation of goldfish.Edward may be dead, but his character still looms large: watch for the spiritual presence of the departed (played in portraiture by Ken Gilbert) quietly overseeing his bizarre family as they puzzle through his final wishes.
The show runs from September 15th-18th, and in support of PlayFest Santa Barbara, the opening preview of Boondawgle on the 15th is a fundraiser to raise money and awareness for next year's Playfest in January. Says Lewis, "Michael Gros, the Artistic Direct of PlayFest, had an idea brewing of how different theater companies in our town can work together within their own unique style. The goal is to have different companies offering new work using their artistic style, and PlayFest would be at the helm to oversee the plays. I read over 15 plays looking for one that had possibilities for DramaDogs, and Boondawgle had me burst out loud laughing." DramaDogs has certainly reaped the benefits of their involvement with PlayFest-they've been connected to two playwrights through the festival (McDonough and Dance Me To The End of Love writer E.M. Lewis). "Through these artists," says Lewis, "DramaDogs has been able to expand our repertoire and further developed our style."
The Boondawgle Estate shows the comedic chops of a company evolving to include new shapes. It features E. Bonnie Lewis as the flitting mother of at-odds twins Entrance (Josh Jenkins) and Exit (Tyler X Koontz) Overhill; Meredith McMinn, Kathy Marden, and Jean Hall as the aggressively peculiar aunts; and Alyssa Hadfield as Entrance's harassed bride. Uncle Edward's solicitor (Paul Canter) instigates the caper, and it's clear there's something "fishy" happening in the house of Boondawgle. Says McDonough: "I would like to extend my appreciation to PlayFest Santa Barbara for providing an opportunity for playwrights to showcase their work, and to DramaDogs for embracing The Boondawgle Estate and premiering it in Santa Barbara. I feel honored to be associated with them both."
DramaDogs: A Theater Company Presents:
The Boondawgle Estate
By Peter McDonough
Directed by Ken Gilbert
Center Stage Theater
Thursday, Sept. 15th @ 7:30 pm: Preview and PlayFest Fundraiser
Friday, September 16th @ 7:30 pm
Saturday, September 17th @ 2:00 pm / 7:30 pm
Sunday, September 18th @ 2:00 pm /6:00 pm