Chibeau

Edmond Chibeau looks at performance and theatre from the avant-garde communication perspective

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Location: Mansfield, Connecticut, United States

Saturday, April 19, 2014

THE FISH IS IFFY BUT THE WRITING IS FRESH

A Cup Of Joe At The Iffy Fish
Written by Scott Stephen Kegler
Directed by Scott J. Hoffman
Hole In the Wall Theatre
19 April - 10 May 2014

The Iffy Fish is a greasy spoon café out on the great highway.  It is populated by a strange group of characters: vampires, ghosts, zombies, federal agents and creatures from outer space.  “On my planet I’m considered the female of the species.”

The play takes place in a run down greasy spoon that brings to mind the 1912 David Belasco production, The Governor’s Lady, where he reproduced a Childes Restaurant kitchen in which actors actually cooked and prepared food during the play.
Theatre repeats itself; the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
The detail in the set is amazing and yet there are sections where there are black curtains the way one might find them on a multi-set TV production of the 1950s and 1960s.
I suspect this has to do with the Rod Serling like character who addresses the audience from time to time to introduce the play and other dramatic developments.

Director Scott J. Hoffman does an excellent job of blocking the actors, evoking the emotional moments, and redirecting the focus among a large group of performers.  He moves the audience and the actors from scene to scene in parallel worlds that seem to pierce each other at moments when characters can interact across time and space.
Between the excellent writing and directing we feel that there is an explanation for these bazaar goings on but we are not quite sure of what it is.

Kelley Mountzoures plays a touching and lovely Gretchen.  James, DeMarco lurches about as Maurice with a mix of danger and absurdity.  Michael Vernon Davis makes Rod an interlocutor who brings us back to the Golden Age of Television.  Elizabeth Bernard, who plays Darla, doesn’t have a lot of lines but we can’t take our eyes off her when she is on stage. Samantha Baker as Agent Scott has eyes that can cut through steel.  Heather Auden, Aunt Tee, plays a line, pauses, and then casts a glance that speaks volumes. Nathan St. Martin, Mike, can play it straight or make it funny, sometime both simultaneously.  Ryan Wantroba is a terrific physical actor.  Shane Kegler is threatening and powerful as Murphy.  Johnny Peifer, Agent Franklin, is a cross between a “man in black” and a monster from outer space. 

Near the end of the play the character Claude is mentioned by name by Murphy (Shane Kegler).  Claude is thrilled to be remembered and he says, “I knew he would remember me.  I’m part of the story, not just a gimmick.”
The kissing scenes at the finalé are spectacular and disturbing.
The whole production has a Grand Guignol quality that is over the top but still under control.
Scot Stephen Kegler has written a script that moves quickly, keeps us on the edge of our seats, and is often bazaar but never dull. 

This is a world premiere of a play that has legs and will, no doubt be seen again.

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