Director AJ Ware plunges us into this wackadoo house with a series of silent scenes. A man is falling. A girl is playing. A woman is painting… cats. What does it all mean? Lighting Designer Claire Sangster highlights the momentary activity and then goes to blackout. The quiet and quick montage builds curiosity. And Playwright Sheila Callaghan continues this bemusement in her wacky house of mourning.
We muddle the essences together early. Mom and daughter are coping with the loss of dad. They deal with it in different and similar ways. The perplexed Charlesanne Rabensburg (mother) cooks and fantasizes about Indiana Jones. The chillingly disturbed Kristen Magee (Janice) plays and fantasizes about Justin Timberlake. Throughout the show, the focus returns to Magee in her bedroom. Magee exudes equal amounts of innocence and obsession in her concentrated efforts. I don’t know whether to hug her or have her committed.
All around the gals, the house is crumbling …or rather grumbling. The animatedly limber Tim Parker is ‘the house.’ From Parker’s apparition-like presence, we get insight into what happened and could happen. Parker plays house with impressive physicality. He squeezes himself into a nook or shimmies across the floorboards. Even though he is always present, he loses visibility as he becomes a fixture in the house. When he does speak, his menacing tone has an Amityville Horror lilt.
Callaghan has written a quirky dramedy. The heaviness of death looms over the peculiarities of the characters. There are bursts of funny moments especially brought by the versatile Curtis Jackson (Justin Timberlake/Harrison Ford/Father). Even with his bizarre entrances and exits trying to lighten the mood, the sadness remains. Rachel Slavick (Aunt Barbara) plays the mother of 57 cats. It seems like the perfect set-up for major comic relief. A dead pan Slavick delivers some humorous moments but mainly comes across as pitiful. The sorrow on stage is palpable.
I can imagine how CRUMBLE could be produced sillier. Callaghan’s goofy characters might easily appear in a Wes Anderson film. Yet, Ware keeps it real. She showcases the complexities of the characters beneath their odd ticks. Ware turns Callaghan’s whimsy into cotton candy with chunks of dark chocolate. I’m not sure I love the combination but the taste is undeniably unique.
Running Time: Eighty minutes with no intermission
At Broadway Armory, 5917 N. Broadway
Written by Sheila Callaghan
Directed by AJ Ware
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru December 20th
*No performances from November 27th through 30th
Buy Tickets at www.jackalopetheatre.org
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