Pursued By A Bear

Fresh Thoughts on Theatre


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Making Lemonade out of Citrus Groves of Terrible

Following a car accident that left her permanently disabled, Beatrice (Liz Vermeulen) makes the most of her life as the beautiful spokesmodel for Dry Ones Adult Diapers. She splits her time between her quirky accountant, Tabitha (Jordan Cimmino), her stereotypical, promiscuous agent (Cristina Vazquez), and her hunky male nurse, Vargas (Miguel Di Costanzo); these people seem to be her only friends and their companionship is vital to her well-being.

The play follows our protagonist, Beatrice, as she navigates her fluctuating relevance to her diaper agency. While her employer is courting potential new spokesmodels, Beatrice goes on the offensive to avoid change: an understandable aspiration, but therein lies the conflict of the play, and the source of several textual shortcomings. To fight against the oncoming tempest of change, Beatrice begins by trying to make her character more sympathetic. This is the play’s only moment of relevant social commentary. Unfortunately, our fascination or preoccupation with the sob story and its tendency to give someone their fifteen minutes of fame is too briefly discussed to catapult this play onto a higher level.

Further conflict arises when Beatrice’s staff starts to make preparations to move on with their careers, effectively leaving Beatrice behind. Rather than allow this to come to pass, Beatrice begins a campaign to make her staff unhirable to anyone else. Beatrice’s cry for help and attempt to keep her world from changing is supposed to be an understandable human reaction, but her methods are deplorable, and Vermeulen’s efforts to make our wheelchair bound heroine sympathetic fall flat, a true feat for the disabled.

The Overtime’s producing artistic director William Razavi does the best here with what he’s been given, adding notes of the classic Razavi camp I’ve grown to love. This is not his script, however, and the times Razavi’s signature comes out are few and very far between. Further, our young cast feels amateurish. There is not enough for our actors to do on stage and they do not have the experience necessary to make the several two person scenes engaging. Young Cimmino’s hurls her body around the stage like her entire weight is in her shoulders, giving her performance an affectation that I sincerely hope was unintentional. Vazquez’ Dolly Buttons verges on a stereotype that feels out of place and offensive in San Antonio. It often feels stagnant and could use a serious cutting as well as some stylistic editing. The play is vulgar but for no purpose other than seemingly to be vulgar with no sense that the vulgarity served any narrative purpose.

While the Overtime is a volunteer run theatre space, typically their productions have more polish to them. Truly—to quote Beatrice—to enjoy this play is to “make lemonade out of citrus groves of terrible.” One more weekend to catch Beatrice and the Puppies at The Overtime. For its faults, Beatrice is a night of entertainment and it has enough laughs to keep one engaged, but if you are looking for anything deeper than cheap laughs, another show might be for you.


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Adults are Just Children With Alcohol and No Chaperones

This season, AtticRep marks its return to a full production schedule after being named the first theatre company in residence at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in December of last year.  Their inaugural season at the Tobin resembles an Attic’s Greatest Hits album  with four plays making a return to the stage, albeit in a significantly larger attic.  The company’s space at Trinity University was small, intimate, and engaging with room for less than a hundred seats. At the Tobin’s Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater—a space the AtticRep will share with the SOLI Chamber Ensemble and San Antonio Chamber Choir— higher ceilings, 250+ seats, and an open floor plan mean Producing Artistic Director Roberto Prestigiacomo and his team will have more freedom to reach more people.

The first in the AtticRep’s revival season is Yasmina Reza’s 2009 award-winning contemporary comedy, God of Carnage, which the AtticRep produced to much critical acclaim in 2012. This production features the return of most of the original cast, and their comfort with each other is evident. Gloria Sanchez-Molina and Andrew Thornton reprise their roles as Veronica and Michael Novak, whose child, Henry, is objectively injured by another child, Benjamin. Benjamin’s parents, Alan and Annette Raleigh are portrayed by returning actor, Rick Frederick, and new addition, AtticRep regular, Renee Garvens.  What begins as an attempt to maturely settle the differences of two little boys on the playground quickly devolves into an exploration and deconstruction of Western propriety and decorum.

Left to Right: Gloria Sanchez-Molina, Renee Garvens, Rick Frederick, Andrew Thornton

Left to Right: Gloria Sanchez-Molina, Renee Garvens, Rick Frederick, Andrew Thornton

The minimalist, contempo loft in the round designed by Jeremiah Teutsch acts as the perfect sandbox for our adults to play in as they discuss their children’s playground antics, and the perfect fishbowl for us to examine  four parents’ march into childlike brutality. When Annette prophetically asks, “How many parents sticking up for their children become infantile themselves?” the trajectory of the play is firmly established. The Novak’s, led unapologetically by Sanchez’ blistering portrayal of  Veronica as the epitome of moral and societal refinement, battle the more laissez-faire Raleigh’s in a series of verbal scuffles that feature shifting loyalties and quite a bit of rum. Conflicts become physical, petty, pernicious, puerile, and when Alan drunkenly exclaims the existence of a God of Carnage, his handiwork in the Novak’s home is palpable enough.

The familiarity Sanchez, Thornton, and Frederick bring to their roles is powerful and immediate—with a particularly strong performance from San Antonio stage icon, Andrew Thornton—often challenging the stiff acting Garvens to keep pace.  The story’s lack of resolution may appeal to some, but without a clear winner or loser, the action of this play—while interesting and often very funny—ultimately seemed like a futile effort and turned off this critic.  Still, God of Carnage proves to be a valiant kickoff for AtticRep’s new season. It’s limited engagement means that your chance to see God of Carnage has passed, but look out for the rest of AtticRep’s regular season. We can only hope their look to the past propels the company into a bigger and brighter future.

Be sure to catch the rest of the AtticRep’s inaugural season at the Tobin:
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Nov 12-23)
True West (Jan 28-Feb 8)
The Irish Curse (Mar 25-Apr 5)

Evan Brooks

Exit Critic, Pursued by a Bear