The Midnight Menagerie

comedy · the bardic bastards · Ages 15+ · United States of America

world premiere
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June 17, 2018 certified reviewer
tagged as: young · fun · insightful

What I liked

Performances all around. Manny Rodriguez and Kaitlin Ruby have lovely tender moments of human connection juxtaposed by the cruel human treatment later. I like how Ruby’s character is not a damsel in distress forced to play along but a trusted sidekick motivated by loyalty and love for her boss. A hard relationship to set up so quickly in the beginning but Pheltz illuminates it well. Michael Callas- funny, gritty, charming, specific, unabashed, goes there! Tom Vohasek- perfect and just the right amount of creepy yet adorable and heartfelt. How he did such an excellent mix of both I have no idea. When his last request was “pull the pretzels out of my pocket. There are people starving around the world.” i cackled laughing. What an odd last request but that actor completely sells and justifies it. Maiya Reaves is as talented as she is beautiful to look at. Her strength, prescence, and voice were beautifully grounded on stage. Her sex appeal was an amazing current day homage to Clue’s Ms. Scarlett with the badassness of a James Bond girl. Kelly Washington does a beautiful job in portraying her character as not just another washed up hag but a full human being with a past, insecuirties, and vulnerabilities. Her moment with the waitress when she says “you are me” is one of my favorite moments of the piece.
Niko Papastefanou is charming and despicable in an honest way only a true comedy actor can balance so successfully. He has these authentic and hilarious moments of reaction even when the attention isn’t on him which adds so much energy to the stage.

What I didn't like

Some plot holes which can easily be overlooked with suspension of disbelief and is justfied by the world and writing of the story. But should be reexamined and readdressed to justify it better. 1. What does this antidote do if it’s already in the person? What are they hoping it would do?

My overall impression

This play is young fun, clever, quick, insightful and existential commentary on art, business, and morality. It’s like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf meets Saw IV! Especially the vomiting from Albee and the blood from Lionsgate. This anti-hero tale will definitely make you think some. The characters are all flawed in various ways but still we wonder and root for them as we see them go through the 5 stages of grief right before our very eyes. The bargaining stage which is particularly fun and comedic. I enjoy Brandon Pheltz’s writing and direction of this piece. Especially having seen his previous work from last year’s The Bakery, he definitely is developing a signature sound and style of story telling that’s going to leave an excellent impression on the industry. Excellent performances from cast all around. Especially Niko Papastefanou, Maiya Reaves, and Kelly Washington. Washington and Papastefanou have a quite lovely scene toward the end of it. Simple, funny, dark and witty. Their character development and specificity is really what brings so much heart to the end.

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