BWW Review: Café Nordo's VIOLET'S ATTIC Creepy Fun but a Bit Undercooked
A really good Café Nordo show needs more than a good premise and good food. It needs a good script that really tells the story, complimenting the food, and a good pace. Their current incarnation, "Violet's Attic", has a wonderfully creepy premise which leads us into a fabulously whimsical meal. But the script and pace, while having some fantastic moments, suffer from too many long, drawn out sequences with little payoff.
In the show written by Terry Podgorski, we're confined into Violet's attic with the rest of her toys. There are the creepy twin dolls (Maddie Brantz and Opal Peachey), the Mommy Clown and Daddy Clown (Jesica Avellone and Jesse Parce), the music box dancer (Justine Davis), the doll with his stuffing ripped out (Chris Quilici) and the ever-watchful Jack-in-the-Box. Violet rules over her dolls with a harsh hand and plays fairly rough with them. A troubled girl, Violet is visited by a counselor (Christi Cruz), but the counselor might be in for more than she bargained when Violet gets angry and adds the counselor to her toybox.
The show certainly has a good grasp on the creep-factor, especially with the oversized set design by Podgorski and the lovingly tattered costume design from Katrina Hess and Fantasia Rose. Plus, the music from Annastasia Workman only adds to the mood. And I must mention some seriously disturbing sound design and voice over from Evan Mosher. However, the script doesn't always lend itself to coherence or advancement with scenes that drag on way too long with little happening and an opening that confuses right out of the gate. That's not to say the show doesn't get you there eventually but the journey is rocky. And the pacing from director Erin Brindley doesn't help as the energy of the scenes kept getting sapped away.
Brantz and Peachey are wonderfully twisted, and each brings a fun character to their twin. Avellone and Parce bring a lighthearted fun to some serious fighting giving them a vicious air. Quilici gives off a tragically damaged vibe making us care for his doll as does Davis who also kills with some serious vocals. And Cruz brings the audience in as the new outsider giving us someone to root for quite well. The entire ensemble delivers the ick-factor and the intent of the situation beautifully, but they all felt a little under rehearsed. Whether that was an actual need for more prep time or the script or the pace, I can't say, but it made for an uneven night.
All told, the evening works. The wonderful food designed to look like kids' tea party bites worked perfectly from the savory buttons to the sweet tea sandwiches. And the invitation to have the audience dress up as their favorite toy and/or bring a toy along with them really immerses the audience into the world. But with so many lulls in the night, it was hard to keep up the engagement. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Café Nordo's production of "Violet's Attic" a "slightly disappointed yet still had a good time" MEH++. A fun creepy show that could have been tighter.
"Violet's Attic" performs at Café Nordo through November 24th. For tickets or information visit them online at www.cafenordo.com.