BWW Review: SHE RODE HORSES LIKE THE STOCK EXCHANGE at Taffety Punk
Taffety Punk takes on an impending economic downturn, workplace dynamics, and the general messiness of human interaction with Amelia Roper's zany play, She Rode Horses Like the Stock Exchange. Like every Taffety show I've ever seen, this one features some really great acting, and the intimate playing space - the black box at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW) - allows the audience to experience it up close and personal.
Roper first introduces us to Amy (Jen Rabbitt Ring) and Henry (Marcus Kyd). The two lovers are both enjoying the pleasure of the other's company at a very nice park in Connecticut (represented by a blanket and some patchy grass designed by Crista Noel Smith). It's immediately clear they couldn't be more different from each other. Henry, a nurse, comes off as kind, somewhat awkward, and fun-loving. Amy, a successful investment banker, has the more dominant personality. Her preppy Ralph Lauren sweater and pearls (costume design by Jen Gillette) don't really show off all of who she is as a person. She knows what she wants and she goes and gets it; no questions asked. Take the situation Amy and Henry are discussing for instance. Amy found a great deal on a foreclosed home and went and bought it without talking to Henry first. She even put it in Henry's name (good idea for tax purposes, she claims; everyone does it). Henry is a little surprised at first, but takes it all in stride.
As their discussion about home ownership and other matters lingers on, Amy's co-worker and boss Max (Dan Crane) - also, at first glance, a ruthless go-getter (albeit one with an easier climb to the top) - and his wife Sara (Tonya Beckman) enter the park with loads of bags and a standing lamp. Max and Sara couldn't be more different from each other either, but in this case, the roles are reversed. Sara is the one in the dark about Max's decisions and has little control over what happens.
Amy and Henry hide behind a newspaper as Max and Sara contemplate whether to engage them. Their entry sets the stage for Roper to explore what happens when one go-getter experiences the highest of the highs and then falls swiftly while the other rises to conquer - essentially benefitting from the other's failure. In essence, competition and capitalism at its finest. But, will Amy's "victory" last?
The impending economic downturn of 2007 is a great basis to explore the messiness of human interaction, the temporary nature of success, and all associated perils. Roper's play has a slightly absurdist edge, which allows the thematic basis to become especially clear. While she does well to sufficiently explore the themes that she sets out to explore (in part, by choosing to make two of the characters investment bankers), her plot is thin and becomes quite tedious to experience even as acted out by some of DC's finest actors under Kelsey Mesa's perceptive direction. Beckman, Crane, and Kyd have all graced the stage at CHAW - as well as many of the area's most respected theaters - numerous times and they do the great work you'd expect them to do. They embrace the comedy and, amidst all of the absurdity, carve out real human characters experiencing real situations. Beckman, especially, is exceptional at navigating the fine line between portraying a somewhat over-the-top housewife in a cartoonish versus realistic way. Jen Rabbitt Ring may have fewer credits listed in her bio than all the other actors, but she holds her own against them and is inherently believably as a strong female investment banker.
While it's hard to fully embrace this comedic play, it is worth a watch if only for the fine acting and compelling thematic content.
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
SHE RODE HORSES LIKE THE STOCK EXCHANGE plays at CHAW - 545 7th St, SE in Washington, DC - through October 14, 2017. Tickets can be purchased online.