Sunday, April 14, 2013

Review: Revenge in Affluentville

photo by Hunter Canning
Spoiler alert: there will be blood. But that’s the case with any story of revenge. Inspired by the classic Jacobean revenge plays, Words, Razors, and the Wounded Heart takes its revenge to wealthy, modern-day Connecticut where a group of young friends stuck in the monotony of growing up take getting out to the next level: death. The misadventures of the kids, told through a series of intertwining scenelets, begins when Ryan Redmond returns home from Colorado just as a series of missteps trigger a trail of revenge plots. With all the cogs in place, the plot needed just one crank of the wheel to gain momentum. Though much of the first half of Act I is slow, spending time on backstory, once the revenge game is set in motion, the engaging tale sets off like a bat out of hell. When scorned Sydney is pushed aside by the sex-crazed Danny, who has his share of dirty little secrets, her brother Greg seeks to put an end to Danny’s cruel ways. When one wrong move occurs, the lives of these characters spin out of control, resulting in a lot of bloodshed.
James Presson’s script is filled with shock. From abundance of crude language to mouth-dropping plot points (a sibling love affair anyone?), Presson uses the Jacobean inspiration to his benefit. While there may be a few excessive characters that do little for the plot, perhaps could have even been combined into other characters, the majority of the money swindling Connecticutians are all placed in their part on purpose. Without one of the cogs, the revenge machine would end abruptly. Interestingly still, our view into this world, Ryan, played with earnest by RJ Villencourt, and his outsider new flame Jenni, an equally lovely Amanda Brooklyn, may not actually be necessary to the plot. Their romance, though charming, seems out of sorts to the chaos of the rest of the world. Presson’s script strays away from the inevitable soap opera, finding ways to make the action viable. The arcs of many of the characters are genuine, though for their age, their catharsis is a tad brazen.
photo by Hunter Canning
Through a range of varied individual performances, the ensemble was cohesive and driven. Led by two outstanding turns, the cast of twelve was fun to watch. Sean Patrick Monahan as Joseph, one half of the sibling love, offered a strong performance as the heartfelt sixteen year-old whose only crime is loving too much. His journey was clear, exhibiting his depth as an actor. His choices were sincere making his character’s actions later in the play even more heartbreaking. Jenna Grossano as Taylor, the mean girl with a bark and a bite, brought authentic humor to the blood bath. Grossano has a knack for comedic timing making the oft-despicable archetype likeable. A testament to a strong performance. The ghost of Grossano’s Taylor deserves her own spin-off.
Director Jake Ahlquist and Set Designer Grace Laubacher did a nice job easing the multi-location play into a simple world. The set, a couple of oddly mismatched colorful chairs, a blood-spattered tarp and an untreated wood box (with it’s own spatter pattern) were all that were needed to bring the world to life. However the scene changes were clunky and lacked cohesiveness, succeeding only when there were sharp snaps into the next scene. Gary Slootskiy did a wonder transforming the difficult space into a clean lighting design. I will say if there was one thing I wanted more of it was blood. Only a handful of deaths got the stage blood treatment, but when they did, oh boy was it good!
If you’re a fan of revenge, this is your play. The plot is easy to follow. The motives are almost warranted. Be warned. Words, Razors, and the Wounded Heart is not for the faint of heart or the easily offended. The fine folks at Less Than Rent have a good one on their bloody hands.

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