Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wacky and ominous, "Scary Mary's" vigorous production is well worth visiting

Corinne Magin as Scary Mary (Joe Iano)
Scary Mary and the Nightmares Nine
Annex Theatre
Through March 4, 2017

A vigorous, inventive and visually stimulating show has just opened at Annex Theatre. Director Eddie DeHais and their team of enthusiastic actors and technicians are pulling out all the stops they can for Scary Mary and the Nightmares Nine, a new play by Amy Escobar.

A relatively large cast of eleven never seems to overpower the small stage, in part due to expert positioning by DeHais. The nightmares referred to are created by an ensemble of five (Kai Curtis, Emily Pike, Kelly Johnson, Sarah Winsor and Raymond Williams) who wield a variety of puppets created by expert puppeteers Ben Burris and Zane Exactly. They are a series of scares that might haunt any of us, and are representative of those felt by people struggling with depression.

Jenn Ruzumna, as a very loud Librarian, leads off the action with her sidekick literary loons (Cody Smith and Jordan Moeller) with a wacky intro to the slightly ominous fairytale and becomes the narrator for the story. She introduces the main characters.

Mary (Corinne Magin) is purported to be struggling with depression. More about that shortly. Her best friend Nell (Kiki Abba) tries to engagingly entice her to a glitter party but Mary is having none of it. She’d rather stay home in her pajamas with Alabaster, her cat (Carter Rodriquez).

As she busies herself mending torn pants, she pricks her finger, propelling her into a nightmare realm where Slither is stalking her to eat her! She’s given a choice: let herself get eaten or choose the challenge of nine nightmares. If she succeeds the tests of the nightmares, she’ll live.

The production has some moments of wonderful wackiness and sometimes ominous darkness. The intention of the writer is well-developed by DeHais and company. But it’s not necessarily because the script makes it so very clear. The notion that Mary is depressed is not well established by a short scene where someone just wants to stay home. While Nell is a supportive best friend, a lovely tribute to those who stand by someone struggling with depression, the daily battle is not nearly completely enough presented. To a certain extent, Mary is presumably struggling with demons every single day – not just on this one occasion.

DeHais’ set design sets an immediate off-kilter tone with oddly-angled bookshelves and lots of intriguing shelf items. The engaging ensemble uses everything they’ve got – odd voices, dancing, singing, well-done puppetry – to put over the nightmares and the challenges. There’s even some oddball choreography stuck in there for kicks.

All in all, it’s an engaging production with enough heart for several additional plays! Whether it succeeds in demonstrating the purported “shero journey” where fighting demons makes Mary a winner, the production-craft with which it is created makes the whole much bigger than solely the scripted frame.

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