Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Review: Ingredients to a Perfect Theatrical Potion

Everyone wants to change something. That's why we engage in the vices we do. But what if these vices had magical powers and these potions truly altered you in the way you wanted? That's what Potion: a Play in 3 Cocktails explores. Unfortunately like our real life vices, the magic will eventually wear out. For the voyeurs who enjoy listening and watching others at the bar, this play is for you. Conceived by Kiran Rikhye and Jon Stancato, written by Rikhye, in Potion, you get the opportunity to eavesdrop on the special potion bar and the personalities that inhabit the haunt.
Inspired stylistically by Italian operas, Potion is a spoken word opera, or a tunless libretto, that follows Charley’s Potion Bar where she serves up potions, not cocktails, that allow a person’s inhibitions to take a new level. On this special night, Charley, who’s in love with her coworker Tom, serves Andi, a usual, Emma and Philip, a pair of young passerbys, and a mysterious man who turns out to be a health inspector. Mr. Forth, the health inspector, tells Charley that the only way he won’t shut her business down is by concocting the only potion she has never mastered, a love potion. Rikhye’s story is fun and engaging. While some would be turned off by the extensive use of repetition, the colorful characters well earn their stay and make up for it. The cast, lead by outstanding performances by the ladies, Natalie Hegg, Liz Eckert, and Molly O’Neill as Charley, Andi, and Emma respectively, all do a wondrous job at bringing a wide array of heart and whimsy through their vastly different approaches in characters. With a cast of seven, the unsung eighth member Sean Cronin, who performs the live music, is a huge and integral presence in the world.
The immersive theatrical experience is a stunning examination on how to cohesively unite audience and production together. Potion touches on this, but could have been pushed even further. Sure there are natural breaks worked in as the potions are being served, but the length unfortunately stops the show, allowing the audience to talk amongst themselves. In this particular context serving and storytelling had to be separate dispute it's natural desire to be one. Director Jon Stancato uses the architecture of People Bar to its capacity, but it's layout may keep some participants in the dark when action occurs behind the bar. The drinks expertly crafted by mixologist Marlo Gamora help enhance the environment and bring you right into the world of the play. Will the love potion work on you afterwards, whose to say? But the delightful buzz you get will surely help you socialize with your fellow viewers.
Potion: a Play in 3 Cocktails is a unique theatrical atmosphere that reminds you why it’s important to keep theater fresh. If the drinks aren’t a draw, the experience is.