Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Review: A Romp in Americana

Audiences always enjoy something they can relate to, whether it’s a story that hits home or a character that they’re familiar with. And nothing is more relatable than pop culture. But finding the appropriate opportunity to place pop culture icons into an already established story is the challenge. With perhaps just the names that truly represent the adaptation, Less Than Rent’s Little Mac, Little Mac, You’re the Very Man transports Macheath and Co. from The Begger’s Opera and Threepenny Opera fame to the Wild Wild West. Oh, and along the way he encounters upwards of 85 colorful characters from the American pop culture canon.
Cowrriten by Sean Patrick Monahan and James Presson, Little Mac lives in a world of complete incohesiveness. Placing the British outlaw in a world of Wild Wild West outlaws was a smart and sensible choice. But with the other added layers, the sensibility was completely lost and unfortunately, at times, made no sense. Imagine a parallel universe where time and space are merely nonexistent or imagine a colorful cast of characters exiting a time machine to Little Mac Land. While the notoriety struck a chord with the audience, the specificity of who appeared were, at times, arbitrary. Little Mac seemed more like a series of sketches within a theme than a play that considered any dramaturgical background. Presson and Monahan's script knew what it wanted to do. However the world of the play didn't properly lend to it. The overall theme of money hungry America and the influence of capitalism wanted to be explored without the distraction of the characters. How can characters like Henry Ford, Michelle Kwan, Bill Gates, Jessica Rabbit, Ronald Reagan, Ethel Rosenberg, Michael Jordan, and a subway car all can coexist in the Wild West?
While resemblance of pop icons are present, they don't seem to land. If you're going to include these names, full commitment is necessary to prove the point. When you do impressions of famous people, we should see and hear them and not rely on a catchphrase and repeating their name to figure out who they are. With that being said, there's no doubt the ensemble knew how to bring the funny. Though with an audience of friends, the laughs came more frequently than they were earned. There were strong performances within the company including Sarah Daniels as Taylor Swift, Alex Kramer in a creepy Ronald Reagan mask, and Matthew George, making the most of his bit parts.
Director Charlie Polinger and lighting designer Alex Freer established a nice dialogue bouncing from story to Taylor Swift narration. The Americana influence of the set and the simplicity of the one-dimensional pieces allowed for seamless transitions, though the ensemble did have some difficulty maneuvering them.
Little Mac, Little Mac, You’re the Very Man is a big and ambitious undertaking. It desired more time, perhaps a workshop or two, before taking on the big stage.