In the wildly eccentric production of “Eat the Runt” at San Jose’s Renegade Theatre Experiment, there’s lots of great enlightenment and entertainment. Such as:
– President Barack Obama is actually the 7th African-American president.
– Cheese made from breast milk is quite tasty.
– It must be extremely painful to go through puberty at 7-months-old.
The Renegade’s zippy theatre piece “Eat the Runt,” written by Avery Crozier and directed by RTE’s artistic director Sean C. Murphy is a quick-witted, fresh piece of satire that keeps the audience moving along at breakneck speed. The snappy dialogue performed by actor’s who literally received the role just a few minutes prior, moves at a frenetic pace, feeling as if it is on-the-edge improvisation. But quite marvelously, it is not.
The show features a whole lot of style and a large driving, pulsing degree of substance. It is time for a museum to hire a new grant writer. The candidate is then thrown into a maze of wily situations and personal agendas that keep the pacing of the show moving forward.
What makes the show so fresh though is the casting process, decided by the audience with the help of the ringmaster general Murphy. Each actor comes out and gives the audience a taste of what they will be casting. The audience goes nuts for their favorite performer based on the descriptions of the characters. A nifty sound gage projected on a screen measures the decibel level of the crowd. And once the casting is complete, the play commences with a non-gender specific plethora of names like “Pinky,” “Chris” and “Merritt,”and situations are created which become either more funny or more awkward based on who’s playing the role that night.
Murphy has honed in on a nice cast that has done plenty of good work on stages throughout the South Bay. Keith Marshall’s portrayal of Merritt on this night is played with visceral force, and his stature and presence was forced onto the other characters effectively. His scenes with Robert Campbell on this night and the mad push into blood pumping eroticism played to maximum hilarity.
Mandy Armes, who was dazzling in City Light’s Theatre Company’s production of “First Day of School,” was wonderful as a neurotic museum director. And Valerie Valenzuela was nicely cast by the audience as a soft-spoken, under-the-radar secretary.
It is a credit to the performers that even though initially, we might feel that there is something unique about the show, it doesn’t take a long time to delve into what the show should be – a quality production by any standard.
Because there isn’t a ton of stage to work with at the Historic Hoover Theatre, too much blocking might gum up the works. The staging was solid, not spectacular, certainly not static, and did a nice job of using different locales using pools of light. There might have been a bit too many backs to the audience for my liking, but those were minimal distractions.
What I found most fascinating about the show is not that the characters change. My personal fascination was that every little nuanced movement has to illicit a different reaction every single night. There is the piece that requires an actor to learn lines of eight characters. That is not the biggest challenge. What is much more challenging is to create fresh, organic truths within minutes of the audience’s casting selections. And when it comes to these needs for the play to fly, the actors seemed to be having fun with the material, which came through nicely.
Crozier’s opus works most effectively when it challenges the audience and makes light of the satirical nature of art, artists and the personalities that come with artistic endeavors. And the show and actors work best with the personalities that come to see the show.
EXAMINE IT FOR YOURSELF
Renegade Theatre Experiment presents “Eat the Runt”
Written by Avery Crozier
Directed by Sean C. Murphy
Through Oct. 1st
Historic Hoover Theater
1635 Park Avenue
San Jose, CA 95126
For tickets, call (408) 493-0783 or visit the official website.
David is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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